A project of hope, change and economic transformation
“This is what the New European Bauhaus is all about. It is about hope. It is about inspiration. It is about new perspectives. And it’s about concrete actions against climate change.” (Ursula von der Leyen)
The #NewEuropeanBauhaus is off to a good start. After the introduction in September 2020 by the European Commission, enthusiasm and ideas were already flourishing. With the recent conference (April 22 & 23, 2021)
the initiative presented itself as a possible driving factor for necessary change from deep inside Europe.
In her welcoming remarks, the Commission president von der Leyen quoted one of the founding fathers of the EU, Robert Schumann: “… solid and deep cultural relations between European countries? That´s how we form the European spirit and all the rest will follow.” Her opening remarks for the online meetings underlined the importance and value of culture. Her speech were met with open ears, as many of the the 8600 participants from 85 countries came from the Cultural and Creative Industries (CCI) / sector.
But, what is it?
There is a tendency in large inter-governmental organisations to develop great ideas, tag them with euphemistic & cool words and then – afterwards, let these ideas get lost in the committees, meetings, sub-projects and in general the mundane everyday life. Yet, this here is different. Now is different. The very real crisis of the Covid19 Virus accelerates the understanding of the necessity to act on the even larger crisis of climate change.
From various (online) conferences and events, I have attended in the last 12 months – including for example the 12th “KulturInvest” Congress or the Europeana conference in November 2020 (which were both centered around the digital & sustainable transformation of the cultural industry) – I can distill a definitive sense of urgency and of a “clear & present danger”. Governments, international organisations as well as the private sector in many industries begin to really understand, that fundamental change is absolutely necessary and in the benefit for all of humankind.
With the introduction of the New European Bauhaus idea, the EU Commission launched an initiative as a free-thinking part of the “European Green Deal” – which, in the real “BAUHAUS spirit” can become a movement – yet this depends not only on the European government bodies, but much more on the public, the citizens and especially the creative & cultural sector. We “Cultural Creatives” have the role to encourage all stakeholders to participate in discussions and exchanges, to develop ideas and projects, to change details in view of a larger transformation – all in the spirit of a “sustainable future”.
“Sustainability is the new beauty” (Zdeněk Hřib, mayor of Prague)
the original Bauhaus changed our “living space”
As much as the original BAUHAUS movement in the 20´s of the last century have been a revolutionary movement, pushed forward by some thinkers, who radically changed, how design, architecture, materials and “living space” was considered (for more on this, see for example: “Bauhaus everywhere”) – as much the NEB aims to open up the minds – to radically rethink our cities, urban living, building materials, mobility and so forth. The NEB is an invitation to artists, engineers, technicians and crafts people.
“The Bauhaus strives to bring together all creative effort into one whole, to reunify all the disciplines of practical art – sculpture, painting, handicrafts, and crafts – as inseparable components of a new architecture.” (Walter Gropius)
Learning from history and the success of the original movement roughly 100 years ago, the NEB can take three “ingredients” or success indicators:
- a transformative time during & after a crisis with large challenges
- new materials & radical rethinking old ways of design, planning, architecture, etc
- interdisciplinarity & working together across all sections
The #NewEuropeanBauhaus aims to “create a better tomorrow” through a fresh & new & open exchange between culture, technology and design about living spaces under the all-encompassing directive #sustainability.
a “yes, we can” outlook
So, the discussions at the conference were lively; the panels were substantial and a common enthusiastic wind of change were blowing through the talks and comments. …. This is the same type of optimistic can-do attitude, I have encountered now numerous times in various conversations with many stake holders in the culture field.
The infectious activism of Alison Tickell, founder & CEO of Julie´s Bicycle is as much part of it as the inspiring optimistic viewpoint – transmitted even through the online channels – from Europa Nostra secretary general Sneška Quaedvlieg–Mihailović or Mariya Gabriel, EU commissioner of Culture, Innovation (& more). And even the well-known “climate change professor” John Schellnhuber, founding director of the Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research chimes in the motivating possible perspectives. These standpoints are in no way closing their eyes towards the urgency and magnitude of the climate crisis. On the contrary, they are taking it very seriously – in order to actively contribute to the necessary changes on all levels.
The process and output of the NEB will be yet to see. It is still very much in its infancies – however, the multitude of ideas and suggestions are already widely recognized and its inspiration felt in many sectors. It is the overall hopeful outlook of a great idea, that motivates into action.
If the process keeps its promising momentum, the New European Bauhaus can become a shining example beyond Europe. “The World is watching…” said Maria Atkinson, Chair of the LaforgeHolcim Foundation for sustainable construction during the conference – underlining how much this idea has already excited the global design community and giving rise to hundreds of ideas in many different directions. “The NEB is a global amplifier and we should not underestimate its reach. Endless growth is a model of yesterday. We know, we ned to move to a regenerative society.” she summarized.
The original BAUHAUS tried to not put too much limits on the free thinking creative minds of their students. („apprentices”, as Walter Gropius preferred to call them). There were radical ideas and concepts. Some of the “Meister-Klassen” received vehement opposition from politicians, traditionalists and established “colleagues” – but over time it became clear, that the creativity flourished and paved the way for a “modern” society.
no limits on creativity
The NEB will not have a given structure (yet) – other than a “high-level-think-tank-panel”, which included for example also Francesca Bria, head of the Italian Innovation Fund and the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, a well-known proponent of the use of sustainable materials (like cardboard, wood or bamboo) in architecture.
Beside the think-tank, the NEB is still very much an open process – and will continue to engage the participation of the public. This means, you can join in at any time through a variety of events, papers, contributions, discussions – in “100´s or 1000´s of living labs all over Europe” (Schellnhuber) – but you can also stay on the sidelines and observe the fascinating process to a “new green living” unfold and participate at a later point in the fundamental changes of our societies.
In any case, stay informed and read more about the New European Bauhaus as it continues, as well as occasionally more about the change in “urban landscapes” by subscribing to our newsletter “The (European) Culture Journal” here or follow me on twitter -> @CultureJournal or directly @Wigbert