by Mridu SahaiFeb 12, 2020
Founded in Weimar in 1919 by Walter Gropius and his group of contemporaries, and furthered by renowned names in the design world including Mies van der Rohe and Hannes Meyer, the Bauhaus has been a major school of thought, more than a physical school. Its influences global, and its learnings still pertinent. For the challenges faced by a world transitioning into the industrial age at the time, the Bauhaus movement remains a timely anchor that combined artistic and design sensibilities to practicality and material ‘nakedness’ that has come to be a signature of the movement. More so, its influences were felt across such varied disciplines as art, graphic design, interior design, industrial design, and typography, but redefining an age in the practice of architecture. Now, a century later, the world faces a different set of challenges: climate change, pollution, digitalisation and a demographic explosion that predicts that the world population will cross the 10 billion mark in the first half of the century. This, coupled with a meteoric economic gain every year, comes at the expense of the planet and its limited natural resources, which is what the European Green Deal wishes to address by 2050.
The headline goal for the European Green Deal is for Europe to be the first climate neutral continent by 2050. While that would be a sizeable achievement by any yardstick, the European Commission realises that cutting down emissions won’t be the only thing that would help. Buildings, modern constructions and most infrastructure development today especially come into the spotlight here, since the industry accounts for nearly 40 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions. The primary role players in the largely unsustainable approach of the construction industry are the two materials it mostly relies on: cement and steel, both bearing a huge embodied energy cost. In order to reverse some of the damage done, the movement would also have to give back. “We need an economic model that gives back to the planet what it takes away from it through a circular economy that is powered by renewable energy. But I want this to be more than an environmental or economic project. The European Green Deal must also - and especially - be a new cultural project for Europe. Every movement has its own look and feel. And this systemic change needs its own aesthetics - blending design and sustainability," stated Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, in an official release. That is what paves the way for a new Bauhaus in Europe, intended to be the very face of the green measures that are intended to be ushered in the drive of realising its climate neutrality target.
The new Bauhaus should be a beacon more than a movement, for a community of world leaders largely unbothered by the climate catastrophe that faces the globe: a collaborative space for design and creativity bringing together architects, artists, students, scientists, engineers and designers, who work in tandem to make this vision a reality and for this movement’s sustainability ideals to reach the masses in attractive, human centric ways. Combining sustainability, accessibility and aesthetics to make activities like recycling, harnessing renewable energies and appreciating and preserving biodiversity more is going to be among the movement’s softer objectives. Leyen elucidates its people centricity, stating that they “should be able to feel, see and experience the European Green Deal. Whether thanks to a construction industry that uses natural materials such as wood or bamboo. Or architecture that adopts near-natural forms and construction principles, that considers ecosystems from the outset, and enables and plans for sustainability and reusability”.
The Bauhaus also aims to harness the revolution of digitalisation that earmarks this century at the outset. Impact assessment on the environment and local climate, reusability analysis, and resource efficiency studies would be only few of the many things to be made possible for our residences, offices and even cities, through digital simulations. In a nutshell, a new European Bauhaus will prove that style and sustainability can go together, catalysing a change in perspective. Initial plans for the movement include setting up an initial five European Bauhaus projects in different countries, committed entirely to the ideal of sustainability, but focussing on a different aspect of it: from natural building materials, to energy efficiency, demographics, future oriented mobility and resource efficient digital innovation. These will serve as “creative, experimental labs and docking points for European industries, a starting point for a European and worldwide network that maximizes economic, ecological and social impact beyond the individual Bauhaus".