29 April 2022

A more beautiful, sustainable, and inclusive Green Deal: New European Bauhaus puts people and places first


New European Bauhaus: beautiful, sustainable, and inclusive

How can collective action on sustainability put people and places first? This is a question best answered with a closer look at the New European Bauhaus (NEB) initiative, which supports the environmental goals of the European Green Deal through the lens of social, aesthetic, and cultural activities. By rounding out the perspectives of the European Green Deal with these more social goals, the New European Bauhaus initiative ensures that the future of sustainability will also be one that supports well-being in a multi-dimensional way--uplifting the unique character of our communities.

ICLEI is an official partner of the New European Bauhaus, taking part in its three phases of co-design, delivery, and dissemination. To dive deeper into the opportunities posed by this new initiative, we spoke with Cristina Garzillo, Senior Coordinator of ICLEI’s Governance and Social Innovation team, as well as Ana Oregi, Councilwoman for Territory and Climate Action in ICLEI Member city Vitoria-Gasteiz, in the Basque Country (Spain).

What is the New European Bauhaus initiative?

Cristina Garzillo:

“The New European Bauhaus Initiative is about creating beautiful, sustainable and inclusive places, products and ways of living. In the historical Bauhaus in 1919, the experiences of World War I motivated architects and planners to radically rethink life, society and the everyday world. This is especially inspiring in today’s context, as nowadays the pandemic and the consequences of climate change and environmental pressures are shaping an era of accelerated change. Transdisciplinarity, teamwork, cooperation between teachers and students, a ‘learn by doing’ approach, and experimentation were very much needed at the time of Gropius and are very much needed today to face a rapidly changing society.”

Why is it important to incorporate New European Bauhaus values into the broad-reaching climate-neutrality goals of the European Green Deal? 

The New European Bauhaus initiative brings a new angle to sustainability goals, leading many to refer to it as the “soul” of the European Green Deal. Adding considerations for our shared places and cultural heritage, the initiative ensures that these vital community assets are part of the way we collectively respond and adapt to the climate crisis.

Cristina Garzillo:

“The 2021 Communication ‘New European Bauhaus Beautiful, Sustainable, Together’ highlights that cultural, natural and social assets make a place unique and are opportunities for connection and social interaction, the binding element that creates a sense of belonging. We need to reconnect our built environment with nature through a life-centered perspective. But we also need a human-centered paradigm to reconnect human beings with each other and with future generations.The optimisation of energy efficiency of the building and cultural stock needs to include dialogue between the existing cultural heritage, landscape setting and contemporary needs through a holistic approach. Beautiful and sustainable solutions reduce fragmentation, foster cross-sector collaboration, enhance local skills and therefore must be accessible and affordable for all.

The NEB aims to support cities in selecting the cultural criteria for fighting climate change by building a more ecological and greener world characterized by renewable energy sources, vital conservation and regeneration of natural and heritage resources, and drastic reduction of CO2, implementing the circular economy model and co-creating a new cultural framework.”

What are cities already doing to get involved?

In some communities, approaches to improving the daily lives of residents already consider cultural heritage. Vitoria-Gasteiz is one such city, where plans for the retrofitting of the medieval quarter of a historic neighborhood are taking shape. The city’s comprehensive approach includes greening activities, pedestrianisation, and installation of bike infrastructure alongside restoration efforts and the renovation of monuments. This strategy was presented by Beatriz García-Moncó Piñeiro, the architect for the Council of Vitoria-Gasteiz, at the 9th Informed Cities Forum 2021, and shows the values of the New European Bauhaus in action: merging considerations for cultural heritage with other sustainability-centered efforts for livable communities.

Ana Oregi:

“Vitoria-Gasteiz is very interested in contributing to the values of the new European Bauhaus. We have submitted a proposal to Horizon Heritage in which we seek to contribute to the preservation of the traditional cultural and economic diversity of the central historical area, appreciating the architectural and heritage value of the built environment and related open spaces, as well as their aesthetics, while improving the daily life of the inhabitants and visitors, focusing on better coexistence in a more beautiful, sustainable and inclusive area."

How can communities get involved with New European Bauhaus?

One of the best ways for communities to get involved in the New European Bauhaus initiative is to apply for technical assistance through the Support to New European Bauhaus Local Initiatives. Ranging from renovation of buildings or public spaces to the development of housing in adapted buildings, a wide array of projects are eligible for the support program.

Cristina Garzillo:

“All local public authorities below 100.000 inhabitants willing to start projects that enact the New European Bauhaus principles and co-create with citizens and institutions beautiful, sustainable, inclusive living urban and rural experiences, have the opportunity to apply to the Support to New European Bauhaus Local Initiatives. Through this support, small- and medium-sized municipalities will receive high-quality, tailor-made and participatory technical assistance to enhance local capacity for place-based transformative projects and turn their project ideas into a reality.”

Applications for Support to New European Bauhaus Local Initiatives are open to EU Member State-based initiatives. Apply by 23 May 2022 at 17:00 CEST.