Sustainable, functional, beautiful and local

29 April 2021

As the European Commission sets out to find design-based solutions that will form the backbone of its New European Bauhaus initiative, cities across Europe are discussing what they can bring to the table to define this new push to tackle global issues facing Europeans today.

At the launch of the initiative at the New European Bauhaus Conference on 22 and 23 April, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen called on local leaders to provide their ideas to “make the European Green Deal tangible and palpable” and “add a cultural dimension to the economic and technological transformation”.

The President highlighted the defining principles of the New European Bauhaus, taking its 1920s namesake’s guiding pillars – functional, affordable, and beautiful – and adding a 21st century touch in sustainability.

“The New European Bauhaus wants to match sustainability with style,” said von der Leyen.

Local perspective

Now, it’s cities’ turn to develop ideas that will improve Europeans’ quality of life while also striving to meet climate targets. Across Europe, cities will be hosting local conversations to gather a local perspective and inspiration for what will eventually be five pilot projects funded by the EU.

Today, 29 April, a whole host of events will kick off the process. The city of Ghent hosts a conversation in partnership with developer sogent and Aachen University to look at the case for developing two brownfield sites in the city’s old dockyards with style, inclusiveness and sustainability in mind.

Hamburg will join Aarhus, Trondheim and even Australian city Melbourne to discuss the ‘urban arena’ and how public space can enable sustainable actions. Brussels’ conversation will focus on renovation and housing, and the Architect’s Council of Europe, in which Munich is active, will go into depth on the so-called renovation wave.

Meanwhile, Milan will focus on thinking of education as an activity that interacts with cities’ space and expanding people’s ‘capacity to aspire’.

Many more conversations are planned over the next month, including in Helsinki, Bologna, Amsterdam, Bilbao and Prague.

Eye-catching designs

These convenings of minds will hopefully spark inspiration for the New European Bauhaus initiative in the manner of Bordeaux, which President von der Leyen mentioned at the opening conference. She referred to the recent winner of the Pritzker prize for architecture, won by architects Anne Lacton and Jean-Philippe Vassal, who upgraded social housing buildings in the French city by making them more energy efficient and more beautiful.

“European cities should capture CO2 instead of producing it,” said Von der Leyen. “And yes: it is possible! Yes, we can turn our cities into urban forests!”

Eurocities is a strategic partner to the initiative. For more information on the New European Bauhaus, visit the European Commission’s website.