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What a Second Bauhaus Movement Means for Europe

The European Union’s Green Deal would set off a wave of building renovations — and a chance to find a new common architecture aesthetic.

The exterior of the renovated Bauhaus building, designed by Walter Gropius, in Dessau, Germany.

The exterior of the renovated Bauhaus building, designed by Walter Gropius, in Dessau, Germany.

Photographer: Adam Berry/Bloomberg

A century ago, the Bauhaus school brought together artists and architects like Paul Klee, Lilly Reich and Mies van der Rohe who challenged traditional orthodoxy and reshaped the West through their Modernist designs. Now the European Union sees a chance to create a new common aesthetic born out of a need to renovate and construct more energy-efficient buildings.

The proposal for energy retrofits is part of the climate actions at the core of the EU’s 1.8 trillion euro ($2.1 trillion) coronavirus recovery plan and could result in a sweeping architectural makeover, one that leaders have compared to a new Bauhaus movement for the continent. One schedule calls for renovations of as much as 2% of the continent’s building stock every year. That type of “renovation wave” would advance the goal of making Europe the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050 and could present an opportunity for a symbolic transformation as well.