New European Bauhaus Festival and Prizes 2022: a showcase of European ingenuity
In Brussels and across Europe, record participation in the New European Bauhaus festival from 9 to 12 June demonstrates that a beautiful, sustainable, inclusive Europe is within reach and shows the way for a participative Climate policy agenda.
Imagine a broad movement of European citizens entirely committed in making our living spaces more beautiful, liveable and climate proof. It would not be a dream, as this is already happening around you.
Launched by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in her 2020 State of the Union speech, New European Bauhaus (NEB) is a creative and interdisciplinary initiative that connects the European Green Deal to people’s living spaces and experiences.
Brussels and many other locations across the continent hosted NEB to celebrate all the vibrant ideas and projects that shaped this second year of the initiative. This includes the ceremony awarding the 2022 NEB Prizes.
As noted by Elisa Ferreira, Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, during the awards ceremony that Europeans’ enthusiasm for the NEB initiative this year could be measured by the 1 100 applications received, with finalists hailing from all the EU member countries.
Faced with the challenge of reinventing modes of production, lifestyles and public spaces that are fit for the climate crisis, the NEB represents the heart and soul of the European Green Deal.
It translates the European Green Deal into a tangible, positive experience in which all Europeans can participate and progress together. The NEB, in this sense, is a way to connect with European citizens and invite them to share their vision of the future.
In fact, the initiative is co-designed with citizens, professionals and organisations across the EU. It is about positive change and building a sustainable, inclusive and beautiful future.
This set of values appeals to the many organisations that applied for the NEB prizes. For instance, representatives from the Robida Collective said: ‘We fully recognise ourselves and our project in the three core topics of the New European Bauhaus – the idea of beauty beyond functionality, with ethical dimensions; the idea of sustainability, which goes beyond the mere materiality, but also questions our lifestyles and our idea of future; and, last but not least, the idea of togetherness, inclusivity and community, the goal of building projects, ideas and commitments together, beyond individualism.’
The Robida collective won a prize for bringing forward an innovative approach in revitalising the abandoned village of Topolò/Topolove, on the border between Italy and Slovenia, by living in it as if it were one house.
This is an approach that imagines ‘a different future for younger generations and a different destiny for rural mountain places which are continuously losing inhabitants but also imagining lives away from cities, but without renouncing on being contemporary.’
Critical role for cohesion policy
EU cohesion policy will play a crucial role in making a reality the core values of the New European Bauhaus initiative through concrete investments co-funded by the EU at the local level.
In an ongoing effort to mainstream the guiding principles of the NEB for the 2021-2027 funding period, the European Commission will facilitate the embedment of the initiative in cohesion policy programmes and in innovative actions.
It is in this spirit and in line with the principle of inclusivity that the European Commission launched the NEB Prizes. The competition invites European citizens, organisations, public authorities and private firms to pitch their ideas, visions, innovations and established projects that already enshrine the guiding principles of the NEB.
This way, the Prizes set out to showcase the ideas in development at the grassroots level, to shape and materialise the vision of the NEB. However, the Prizes also show to administrators and policymakers that innovative projects already exist and the NEB is not just a utopia.
Challenges and solutions
Our society is facing unprecedented challenges. Disruptive and innovative projects need support, resources and backing from private capital.
For this purpose, DG Regio is committed to assisting managing authorities in setting up financial instruments to support NEB projects and leverage private resources. These measures, aimed at facilitating access to support and at assessing the projects’ viability, will match the NEB territorial development model financial instrument.
New initiatives connected to the NEB will not stop there, as the second half of 2022 will entail the first call of the European Urban Initiative dedicated to the New European Bauhaus, the first of many yearly calls for projects that will test new solutions to urban challenges.
The call will provide EUR 20 million to 4-5 municipalities over 50,000 inhabitants, financing infrastructure elements contributing to the New European Bauhaus projects.
Moreover, DG REGIO has recently closed the call ‘Support to New European Bauhaus Local Initiatives’ addressed at municipalities below 100,000 inhabitants. Up to 20 municipalities will receive expert support to develop their proposals of New European Bauhaus projects. Based on their experience, a Toolkit will be created to promote the knowledge on how to prepare the NEB-like investments.
Inspiration and commitment
Such concrete steps that take inspiration from the visionary NEB initiative and the Prizes in particular, mark the Commission’s commitment to the core principles of this initiative.
Alexandra Mitsotaki, President of World Human Forum, noted that the NEB has an added value not only in the framework of the climate policy agenda, but in its ‘opening up the narrow technocratic approach’ to tackle the crises ahead by kick starting a bottom-up social and cultural movement.
The festival, which assembled all the NEB prize finalists, represented the opportunity to celebrate and display all the innovative ideas that are already circulating throughout the EU.
Connecting with grassroots organisations
More importantly still, the NEB is an example of how to connect policies with grassroots organisations, and ‘finding the laser beam between government and bottom-up approach’ as stated by Jan Vermuelen, designer for the winning project De Korenbloem.
The projects were divided in four categories: Reconnecting with nature; Regaining a sense of belonging; Prioritising the places and people that need it the most; and Shaping a circular industrial ecosystem and supporting life-cycle thinking. In each category, the prizes would go to completed projects and to young (under 30 years old) rising stars.
An expert jury was tasked with selecting 16 winners and runner-ups, while, in the spirit of openness that characterises the NEB, two additional winners were selected by the people’s vote.
Among the projects participating in the Prize ceremony, many revolved around the idea of restructuring, re-appropriating, refurbishing public spaces through people-centred approaches.
Others looked for ways to strike a balance between human activity and the environment while using resources ethically. Many other initiatives focused on citizen participation, promoted social cohesion, learning and training or challenged the current system of excessive consumption by finding innovative ways to upscale, recycle and repurpose waste.
Initiating a wider change
Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, highlighted the transformative power of rethinking what surrounds us, telling the audience that ‘the places we live in shape us and their physical transformation holds the power to initiate wider change, and this is an opportunity to rethink the purpose of a place’.
The representative for Zero Waste Lab, the winning project for the category Shaping a circular industrial ecosystem and supporting life-cycle thinking, quickly echoed the Commissioner’s words by saying ‘the worst kind of waste is wasted opportunity’, which sums up two of the overarching themes of the festival.
The evaluation of the projects verified that the submissions were enriching, in being inspired by art and culture or responding to needs beyond functionality, sustainable, in harmony with nature and the environment, and inclusive, and hence conducive of dialogue across cultures, disciplines, genders and ages.
In her closing remarks, Commissioner Ferreira thanked all the contestants for giving shape to their ideas and said: ‘Your projects, your ideas and the embodiment of our values are the proof and inspiration that the excellence we celebrate in Brussels today can be replicated all across Europe, all across our regions and villages and that can be called a cultural movement and that’s what we are achieving all together.’
The Commissioner added: ‘We all know that the green and digital transition implies a profound change to our economies and to our life you example shows that this is possible, and that this transformation is in fact already happening.’
What emerged at the prize ceremony through the words of the speakers and many of the winners’ acceptance speeches is a sense of shared responsibility and collective commitment in collaborating for the same ideals and triggering structural changes.
The representative of the project Gardens of the future, winner of the popular vote said ‘Gardens of the future is planting seeds to grow a new mind-set of how life should be experienced from now on and still we have a lot of way to go towards healing. Healing the planet and healing ourselves. And I think New Bauhaus is here, to speed up the process, and we will do this together.’
For many contestants, the NEB Prizes meant acknowledging and rewarding those people and communities that act locally to address global challenges, and showing that local realities and issues can be exemplary.
Between the inspirational ideas brought on stage by participants and the Commission’s commitment to a just response to climate change, the NEB is becoming a network of dedicated citizens, innovators and local communities dreaming of and acting for a sustainable, beautiful, inclusive future. In short, the NEB is mutating from an initiative into a real movement.
Visit the NEB website for a summary of winner and runner-up projects link