New European Bauhaus: what way forward?

February 15, 2021, 3:20 pm

The debate is developing on the main features of the New European Bauhaus (NEB), the latest initiative launched by the European Commission to “bring the Green Deal closer to the European citizens.” 

During her first State of the Union speech, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated that the Green Deal is also a cultural project and announced the setup of a new EU-led initiative – “The New European Bauhaus, a multidisciplinary co-creation space where architects, artists, students, engineers, designers work together”. Its “core values” are sustainability, aesthetics and inclusiveness. 

On 18 January the European Commission kicked off the co-design phase, setting up a new website aiming to gather partners as well as their inputs, ideas and contributions in the months to come. 

The early participation includes flagging already existing projects that embody the NEB “values” (sustainability, inclusion, aesthetic). In this first phase, special prizes of around 30,000 euros will be awarded to the best sustainable practices identified through the process. 

Such ‘harvesting’ period will last until summer 2021, when all the entries of the website and outcomes of the debates will feed into a formulation of a support framework based on EU programmes (mostly ERDF and Horizon Europe), including a call for proposals for pilot projects in at least 5 different Member States across the Union. 

The Commission is calling European networks and umbrella organisations to engage with this new initiative and to become “Partners of the New European Bauhaus”. In this framework, Culture Action Europe is organising a membership consultation on Friday 26 February (here is the registration form), with the participation of the European Commission, to reflect on how the cultural ecosystem could interact with this new initiative. 

The NEB could pave the way for a long-awaited recognition of the role of culture in the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. However, it also raises some concerns about the understanding of culture at the service of political and economical projects or the top-down choice of a controversial label, among others. Some other critical reading about the New European Bauhaus is out there too, including articles published in Rekto Verso/Eurozine and in the Institute of Network Cultures website, as well as the open letter by Jan van Eyck Academie.

In the meantime, the brand-new “NEB Unit” of the European Commission’s Joint Research Center (JRC) is also hosting web-streamed info-sessions until the end of February to showcase the major profiles of the New European Bauhaus. The European Parliament is also onboard, closely following the unfolding of the NEB process, and to this end has set up a Friendship Group involving several MEPs from all major groups, with the aim to accompany the NEB process. 

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