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Will the EU's Green Deal sets off another Bauhaus Movement?

The European Union’s Green Deal would set off a wave of building renovations — and a chance to find a new common architecture aesthetic.

Bauhaus Archive, Berlin
Bauhaus Archive, Berlin | Photograph © Joel Filipe on Unsplash

"A century ago, the Bauhaus school brought together artists and architects like Paul Klee, Lilly Reich and Mies van der Rohe who challenged traditional orthodoxy and reshaped the West through their Modernist designs. Now the European Union sees a chance to create a new common aesthetic born out of a need to renovate and construct more energy-efficient buildings.

The proposal for energy retrofits is part of the climate actions at the core of the EU’s 1.8 trillion euro ($2.1 trillion) coronavirus recovery plan and could result in a sweeping architectural makeover, one that leaders have compared to a new Bauhaus movement for the continent. One schedule calls for renovations of as much as 2% of the continent’s building stock every year. That type of “renovation wave” would advance the goal of making Europe the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050 and could present an opportunity for a symbolic transformation as well.

Green Deal sets off a Second Bauhaus Movement
Bauhaus Archive, Berlin, Germany | Photograph © Florencia Viadana on Unsplash

“We need to give our systemic change its own distinct aesthetic — to match style with sustainability,” said Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, during her state of the union address at the European Parliament Plenary on Sept. 16. “This is why we will set up a new European Bauhaus — a co-creation space where architects, artists, students, engineers, designers work together to make that happen.”

Details of this agenda are still being negotiated, but in pointing to the Bauhaus — the Weimar-era school that churned out influential thinkers in design, architecture and craft until it was forced to close by the Nazi regime in 1933 — commissioners summon a legacy with a powerful grip on the imaginations of Europeans (and others). The sheer scope of climate actions under consideration could give lawmakers, engineers and architects an opportunity to build toward a shared continental vision.

The commission will unveil the details of the renovation wave initiative, part of the European Green Deal, on Oct. 14. For now, it’s not shying away from an aesthetic commitment of some kind."

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