The 2021 Communication on the New European Bauhaus (NEB) expresses the EU’s ambition of creating beautiful, sustainable, and inclusive places, products, and ways of living. It promotes a new lifestyle where sustainability matches style, thus accelerating the green transition in various sectors of our economy such as construction, furniture, fashion and in our societies as well as other areas of our daily life.
The New European Bauhaus, which takes its name from the influential German design school founded by Walter Gropius in 1919, is part of the €750 billion NextGenerationEU investment and recovery plan put in place by the EU following the coronavirus pandemic. The creation of the European Bauhaus was announced as part of the cultural aspect of the recovery plan matching style with sustainability. Commission President von der Leyen in 2022 noted that ‘with the New European Bauhaus … we want to decarbonise the building sector, the building stock. We are looking for nature-based solutions…’. Therefore, the NEB aims to bring a cultural and creative dimension to the European Green Deal. It brings out the benefits of the environmental transition through tangible experiences at the local level.
This reference to the local level is backed up by the assertion that ‘this can only happen if people from different backgrounds and areas think and work together in a participatory way’. As a first step of this participatory project, the Commission reached out to civil society and stakeholders as part of the co-design phase of the NEB. This co-design phase was an open invitation for anyone to say what the NEB should be about, to share the challenges it should address and ideas and expertise on how this could be done. So, the concept of the New European Bauhaus is based on the various bottom-up inputs received during this phase.
The co-design process relied on interested people, organisations, political institutions, and companies to organise events, conversations, and workshops. The first ever Conference on the New European Bauhaus in April 2021 was the culmination of this global conversation, with some 8,000 online participants from around the world, highlighting the need for the movement to connect globally.
A triangle of three core inseparable values guides the New European Bauhaus:
- Sustainability – from climate goals, to circularity, zero pollution, and biodiversity,
- Aesthetics – quality of experience and style, beyond functionality,
- Inclusion – valorising diversity, equality for all, accessibility, and affordability
The New European Bauhaus endorses a multilevel approach to transformation – from global to local. Climate change and the green transition need to be addressed globally but at the same time, it is at the local level that change is happening and makes sense for people. Delivering on the New European Bauhaus means reaching out to local areas, following a place-based approach. Successful small-scale projects show that transformative initiatives, whatever their size, are possible for everyone, everywhere. The New European Bauhaus claims it will explore ways to support small-scale initiatives by individuals, neighbourhoods, and local communities.
According to its Progress Report (January 2023), thanks to a broad funding from different EU programmes, the NEB has started to implement real change on the ground. In 2022, the first six NEB demonstrators were chosen and started to work. In 2023, the next 10 will follow. Although the NEB has no specific EU programme at its disposal, over €100 million have already been invested into NEB projects supported by different EU programmes.
The Progress Report notes the NEB has managed to bring together people from various backgrounds – from art and design, cultural and creative industries, cultural heritage institutions, to educators, scientists and innovators, local and regional authorities, and citizen initiatives, and they all play a crucial role in delivering the NEB. On top of the actions, events and projects that the Commission initiated itself, the NEB has also encouraged and inspired a huge number of local, regional and national actors to create their own NEB initiatives.
The NEB argues that it has developed into a credible and powerful narrative of a transformation that leaves no one behind and wishes to be an inspiration to citizens, giving all the confidence to speak up and participate. It continues by claiming that the NEB also supports citizens and communities to become active actors to accelerate the green transition in their local contexts. Through its participatory approach, the NEB seeks to involve civil society and people of all ages and in all their diversity.
Although there is no direct reference to responsible research and innovation, much of the funding comes through the Horizon Europe programme and there is an intention of a strong bottom-up component and an intention to reach out to civil society. This is also highlighted in a 2022 report argues that the NEB should function cohesively, across clusters, disciplines,
and sectors, as well as modes of ideation and production, with the aim of exploiting the regenerative potential of building sector activities and building artefacts. This goal will involve engaging citizens in the transformation of their communities and re-enfranchise communities whose deep cultural knowledge has been at best ignored in an era of global economic exchange.
So while there seems no direct references to RRI in the New European Bauhaus, its intention to engage citizens within the development and implementation of projects relates to one of the key features of RRI – ‘Citizen Engagement’ which argues that the public, including civil society organisations, should jointly participate in the R&I process, rather than the traditional pillars of researchers, industry, and policy makers who have traditionally fed into it.
 European Comission (2021), “Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL LAYING DOWN HARMONISED RULES ON ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE ACT) AND AMENDING CERTAIN UNION LEGISLATIVE ACTS“, available at https://ec.europa.eu/transparency/documents-register/detail?ref=COM(2021)206&lang=en
 Bauhaus was one of the world’s most influential design movements with influential designers including Mies van der Rohe, Marcel Breuer and Anni Albers passing through the school before it closed in 1933.
 NextGenerationEU is the EU’s €800 billion temporary recovery instrument to support the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and build a greener, more digital and more resilient future. Read more at https://commission.europa.eu/strategy-and-policy/eu-budget/eu-borrower-investor-relations/nextgenerationeu_enhttps://commission.europa.eu/strategy-and-policy/eu-budget/eu-borrower-investor-relations/nextgenerationeu_en.
 European Comission (2022). “Statement by President von der Leyen on the occasion of the New European Bauhaus goes Into the Woods event“, available at https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/statement_22_7120
 European Comission (2023) “New European Bauhaus Progress Report: REPORT FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THECOUNCIL, THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE AND THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS“, available at https://new-european-bauhaus.europa.eu/system/files/2023-01/CP-003%20-%20Report%20from%20the%20Commission%20%28EN%29%20Part%201.pdf
 ] European Comission (2022), “Horizon Europe and new European Bauhaus NEXUS repost: Conclusions of the High-Level Workshop on ‘Research and Innovation for the New European Bauhaus“, available at https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/9f9acd60-8aec-11ec-8c40-01aa75ed71a1/language-en.