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Background and history

100 years after the Bauhaus - a movement that radically changed art, design, and architecture in Germany and beyond.
© Università di Torino

Learn how the principles of the historical Bauhaus movement have inspired the NEB initiative.

The Bauhaus movement emerged in Germany at a time of profound change following World War One. Indeed, overcoming the shocks of the war and rebuilding Europe required new solutions that had to be both functional and affordable. The term “Bauhaus” is similar to the medieval German word for builder’s lodge. Walter Gropius first used this word to refer to the experimental art and architectural school he established in 1919 in Weimar, Germany.

The Bauhaus Building in Dessau, Germany
© Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

Believing that “art shall no longer be a luxury of the few, but should be enjoyed and experienced by the broad masses”, Gropius founded the Bauhaus adopting a cross-disciplinary approach. By doing so, he aimed to reconcile the beauty of artistic creation, the functional and technical aspects of craft practices, and the affordability of industrial production. To reach this objective, Gropius involved people with different backgrounds, such as artists, designers, architects, and artisans working together in the school. Thus, although the school remained open only for 14 years, Bauhaus represented more than just a school. Soon, it has become one of the most influential innovation movements of the 20th century.

As reported by Stephen Quest, Director-General of the Joint Research Centre:

“the Bauhaus was conceived as a host to new modes of creative experimentation. It was built on the idea that new learning methodologies are essential for shaping new skills and knowledge, and ultimately provide solutions to emerging challenges. The pedagogy of the school sought to dissolve the boundaries between arts, crafts, and industry, but also – to a certain extent – shift resources and agency from the elite fringes of the German society to broader segments of its population. The legacy of the Bauhaus can be found in the shared belief that we need novel approaches to drive transformative change, and that we should all – without discrimination of any kind – have a chance to shape this change.

The NEB adds other dimensions to the mix of the historical Bauhaus, such as sustainability, quality of experience, and citizens’ engagement. As it will be described in the following units, above all, the reference to the Bauhaus is about keeping the NEB as an adaptable framework for future actions, open to experimentation and shaped by its community. It empowers citizens to nurture and co-create innovative policies and initiatives for designing a more beautiful, sustainable, and inclusive future.

A poster of the Bauhaus movement. Among the school’s staff, there were artists such as Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky © Johannes Itten / Study of colours

Supplementary material: Also the World Economic Forum has recently covered the topic of the New European Bauhaus, linking the historical origins of the movement to the necessity of further advancing a sustainable transition of modern economies. You can find a short inspiring video here.

© Università di Torino
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The New European Bauhaus: Concept, Movement, and Opportunities

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