The Bauhaus school in Dessau, Germany. Photo: Jens Büttner/dpa-Zentralbild/ZB (Photo by Jens ... [+] Büttner/picture alliance via Getty Images)
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Last year marked the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus, an art and design school founded in Weimar, Germany that launched a global movement to marry mass production with creativity. For architects of the time, its ideas influenced the modernist movement and led to the creation of the International Style, one in which decor is minimal for the sake of function. The centennial was celebrated with various exhibitions and events across the globe explaining the Bauhaus’s reach and impact. Members of the European Commission seemed to have taken notes. On September 16 during the annual State of the European Union speech, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen called for a new “European Bauhaus,” one that would initiate an architectural style to design a climate-neutral future.
The proposal came after von der Leyen set an E.U. goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Europe by 55% in 2030, an increase from the previous benchmark of 40%. She cited construction as a sector for vast improvement. “Our buildings generate 40% of our emissions. They need to become less wasteful, less expensive and more sustainable,” she said plainly. “We know that the construction sector can even be turned from a carbon source into a carbon sink, if organic building materials like wood and smart technologies like AI [Artificial Intelligence] are applied.”
The hypothetical European Bauhaus would be a new cultural movement born, much like the original Bauhaus, out of a “co-creation space where architects, artists, students, engineers, designers work together to make that happen,” she says. In collaboration, these creatives would spawn ideas for sustainable renovations to existing structures, as well as invent new architecture that “match[es] style with sustainability,” one that will translate to multi-national contexts and employ the latest green technologies. The multidisciplinary nature of this think tank-esque setting, the E.C. president suggested, would help to streamline burgeoning green movements across sectors and concentrate efforts on a building industry that, albeit necessary for the well-being of humankind, has become one of the single largest polluters in the world.
Since the speech no apparent moves have been made by the E.C. or otherwise to establish the physical or digital European Bauhaus space or to gather the creatives to ideate its carbon-neutral designs. However, the scheme is one that von der Leyen believes will keep the E.U. on track to meet its Paris Agreement goals for carbon neutrality by 2050 (also known as the “European Green New Deal”) and is supported by a target of €750 billion in “green bonds” for NextGenerationEU, the Union’s coronavirus pandemic recovery fund.