View of the new buildings in the Munich district of Neuperlach
The Munich district of Neuperlach is one of five flagship projects of the New European Bauhaus. With around 50,000 inhabitants, it is one of the largest urban development projects in West Germany after World War II.

New European Bauhaus: Ecologically sustainable and socially inclusive

The neighbourhoods of tomorrow are sustainable, aesthetic and creative. They connect people instead of dividing them. This is the idea behind the European Commission’s New European Bauhaus initiative, whose name is based on the famous Dessau School of Modern Design. Our author Tim Müßle spoke with Oana Cristea, who is closely involved in the EU-wide Bauhaus, about funding and prizes from the initiative, which is currently calling for new bids.

Example: Neuperlach. The Munich district was built in the 1960s. Its appearance is dominated by high-rise buildings, concrete and the doctrine of the “car-friendly city”. Today, around 50,000 people live in Neuperlach, and many buildings and open spaces are in need of renovation. Unemployment is high and the level of education is below average.

These challenges are not new to Europe; many urban centres in the EU are struggling with similar problems. Now the European Commission has proclaimed Neuperlach as a lighthouse project for the New European Bauhaus.

Munich’s Neuperlach district becomes a lighthouse project

Because Neuperlach should not stay as it is. Munich plans to transform the neighbourhood into a “city of the future”: including with ten individual schemes from all urban development spheres, ranging from circular construction and renewable energy to youth culture in the public realm. In the process, Bavaria’s state capital is engaging local people together with cultural and creative practitioners. It also intends to encourage entrepreneurial thinking and action, especially in population groups that have had little access to these so far.

The concept impressed the European Commission and the scheme was funded in May 2022 as one of five lighthouse projects that will act as demonstrators as part of the New European Bauhaus initiative. The EU Commission is allocating five million euros.

Sustainability, design, overcoming social boundaries

Munich is not the only European city applying for funding. In 2023, the New European Bauhaus initiative is launching the next bidding round. New funding opportunities for a wide variety of projects are now available and waiting for applicants. Projects with the best chances for success are those that make neighbourhoods fit for the future in regard to a wide range of aspects:

  • Sustainability, climate neutrality and harmony with nature
  • Aesthetics and design
  • Inclusion and overcoming social barriers
  • Inspiration through art and culture beyond pure functionality
  • Encouraging dialogue and discussion across cultures, disciplines, genders and generations.

Old industrial sites as new meeting places

“The New European Bauhaus combines the three principles of sustainability, design and inclusion,” is how Oana Cristea, who has been closely involved in the initiative, describes the idea. For the period 2021 to 2027, she has compiled an inventory of old, abandoned industrial facilities to find out which of these sites are eligible for funding and which promise to benefit the most from the initiative.

“The New European Bauhaus”, says Oana Cristea, “not only gives us the chance to regenerate these industrial sites and give them back to the community, for example for cultural or educational purposes. People should also be able to meet and engage with one another there.”

Developing and testing policy and funding instruments

And it’s not just about upgrading industrial sites or former commercial areas. The New European Bauhaus has a much broader scope. The initiative derives from EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and was announced back in 2020. The focus is on neighbourhoods that will particularly benefit from upgrading – and this throughout Europe.

“The framework of the New European Bauhaus is intended to create a space for developing and testing policy and financing instruments for transforming our societies and our economy,” explains the European Commission’s Spokesperson’s Service in Germany when asked. “And it’s also about intensifying synergies between existing and planned EU measures or programmes.”

The New European Bauhaus therefore intends to provide answers to issues that cannot be adequately addressed by individual funding instruments and often fall through the cracks. “We have to rethink and replan,” says EU Commission President von der Leyen. “Our economy must organise itself more strongly in cycles that conserve resources, that give back to nature what they take from it. Europe can and should play a leading role in this.”

Prize-worthy concepts                                                   

A key role can be played by the prizes for which initiatives and projects can apply until the end of January 2023. These New European Bauhaus prizes are aimed at rewarding projects and concepts in the following categories:

  • Reconnecting with nature
  • Recovering a sense of belonging
  • Prioritising places and people with the most urgent needs
  • Long-term thinking in life cycles in the industrial ecosystem

15 winners will be awarded up to 30,000 euros by the end of 2023.

Current funding opportunities

In addition, funding programmes are currently underway within the framework of the New European Bauhaus that aim to support sustainable, aesthetic and inclusive projects. The initiative has three focal points. Firstly, the focus is on projects that concentrate on tangible transformation in local areas. Secondly, it is about new solutions and products that integrate innovation, sustainability, inclusion and design. Last but not least, one of the funding priorities concerns concepts that challenge existing perspectives and mindsets in order to anchor the values of the New European Bauhaus.

“The New European Bauhaus helps us to recognise where the key issues of our time lie,” says Oana Cristea, “and at the same time it inspires us to new, perhaps even more ambitious initiatives. And that, of course, is what we need – we all benefit from falling emissions, new cultural opportunities and greener, more sustainable cities that promote inclusion and conserve resources. But to achieve this we need a paradigm shift, new values and new behaviour. The New European Bauhaus supports us in this.”

Tim Müßle