Speech by President von der Leyen at the New European Bauhaus Collective online conference ‘Common Ground: Making the Renovation Wave a Cultural Project’

© European Union, 2021© European Union, 2021

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Dear Members of the New European Bauhaus collective,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you very much for the invitation!

It’s an honor for me to open this first event of the New European Bauhaus collective. I am very happy to have such a strong, diverse and competent group of organisations and people that support the New European Bauhaus initiative.

With the creation of this collective you did exactly what we had in mind when we launched the project: Bringing together people from different backgrounds and disciplines. Not only to amplify good ideas, but also to create a better future for Europe and our planet.

Why is this so important? Let’s take some minutes to look back at the original Bauhaus that was founded in Weimar and Dessau. You all know it quickly developed into a world-wide movement. The success of this movement was only possible because the founders succeeded in combining architecture with craft; design with innovation. They put the concept of inter-disciplinary into practise every day.

Until today, we can see how successful they were. We see their ideas in the buildings of our cities, in our furniture, in fabrics and art. Combining art with technology – bringing together innovation and creativity is key for a deep transformation. And this is why the work of your collective is so interesting and important for us.

But this is not the only reason why the historical Bauhaus can be an inspiration for our New European Bauhaus. Let me mention two more:

First, the historical Bauhaus was created in a time of profound transformation. People were facing the challenges of industrialization. The founders around Gropius aimed for solutions that were functional, affordable, but also beautiful. The New European Bauhaus is also looking for this combination of aesthetics and affordability. But we want to add a very important third element: sustainability. The New European Bauhaus wants to match sustainability with style. We want to show that sustainable solutions can also be beautiful.

The New European Bauhaus brings a cultural element to the European Green Deal. It wants to make the European Green Deal a tangible, touchable experience and bring it closer to the people.

The third inspirational element of the historical Bauhaus is that it boldly promoted new materials like steel and cement. Today, we also need to look into new and sometimes old building materials. This time, it’s about climate friendly materials that need less CO2 in their production process. The New European Bauhaus wants to accelerate the transformation of the built environment. It wants to scale up nature-based materials like wood and bamboo to support circular design and architecture.

Buildings are responsible for 40% of our energy consumption. Only if we manage to change this, we have a chance to keep global warming below 1,5 degrees. If we succeed, we will come a great deal closer to our big European goal: To become the first climate neutral continent by 2050.

To achieve this, we also count on your support and on your concrete contributions: You are at the forefront of developing the new materials and processes. You are the decision makers on new buildings and renovations in your cities. You are planning and designing houses, schools and hospitals. You can make this change happen and bring the Bauhaus to a new era.

As you know, we are still in the so called design phase of the project. Our concept is not ready yet. We want to shape it together with all people interested. Also together with you.

We see some trends already emerging: And one of the most important trends is the focus on renovation and re-use of buildings. In the future it should be an exception that a building needs to be scraped. We should use our resources in a more responsible way. Smart renovation can play a major role here. That is why the Commission proposed last year, together with the New European Bauhaus, the Renovation Wave. We will present additional measures like energy performance standards for buildings that will enhance renovation in the Member States.

And it is good to see that there seems to be a shift in thinking in the architecture community: For the first time in its 46-year history, the Pritzker prize was awarded not for new buildings, but for refurbishment. The architects Anne Lacton and Jean-Philippe Vassal upgraded social housing buildings in Bordeaux by making them more energy efficient and more beautiful.

These award winning architects showed – like many others: Change is possible and it is fun! Let us turn our cities into urban forests! Modern and old European cities should capture CO2 instead of emitting it.

And this brings me to the last point I want to share with you today: The role of local governments, regional decision makers, cities and rural communities. This is where the change happens. We need you – mayors, counsellors, citizens – we need you for the green transformation on the ground. We know that public procurement plays a key role. Sustainability should become a more important criterion in this process. We will make proposals on this later this year. There are already so many good examples for green transformation in cities and villages all over Europe. We want to give them visibility and use them as an inspiration for others.

I want to thank you again for your support and your contributions to this initiative. I also want to encourage you to participate in the New European Bauhaus prize that we launched last week. The good news is, you still have some more weeks to apply with your projects.

We are very much looking forward to get your feedback from the workshops that you will have today. It will be a valuable contribution to the design phase.

And your spirit will help us to shape the concept of the New European Bauhaus.

Thank you very much!