Who is the Women’s New European Bauhaus? The WNEB is made up of a group of women from research and academia, associations, grassroots, entrepreneurs, with different professions and knowledge: architects, engineers, farmers, sociologists, geologists, historians, philosophers, environmental psychologists, biologists, economists, writers, artists, housewives, who share the concept of the New European Bauhaus (NEB1) of developing actions for the future of cities and communities. We want to imagine new structures and new urban settings for new lifestyles that, in close relationship with nature and the environment, promote health, well-being, beauty and equity, in order to achieve the Green Deal which aims to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.
WNEB aims to experiment with the establishment of a Gender Hub of the Ecological Transition, in which the dimensions of research, the circular economy, sustainable mobility, innovative cohabitation, care, technological innovation, regeneration coexist with urban climate change, aim at identifying effective methodologies for radical changes towards a sustainable way of life in Europe and in the world, through processes of spreading of knowledge and practices of active citizenship of women, in Europe and in the world.
Why a Women’s New European Bauhaus?
Everyone knows the great masters of the Bauhaus – Gropius, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, László Moholy-Nagy, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, but few know Gunta Stölzl, Anni Albers, Benita Otte, Marguerite Friedlaender-Wildenhain, Ilse Fehling or Alma Siedhoff-Buscher Marianne Brandt, Lilly Reich, Gertrude Grunow, Lotte Beese, to name but a few.2 But if the women of the Bauhaus School are largely unknown and if their story is often untold, their legacy survives because, even if relegated to the study of only «feminine» art forms such as weaving, they had the audacity to demonstrate their value by becoming true pioneers of handcrafted design, transforming objects and materials for the home into modern masterpieces, capable of surviving time. As Gunta Stölz said, «we wanted to create living things of contemporary relevance, suitable for a new lifestyle. Before us there was enormous potential for experimentation. It was essential to define our imaginary world, to shape our experiences through matter, rhythm, proportion, colour and shape».
Today the global COVID-19 pandemic is affecting cities physically and socially, profoundly changing the economy and people’s lives by increasing waste, injustice, inequality and hateful discrimination. Deep reflection on the needed radical changes in the development processes is a must. It is necessary to start again from the recognition of the value of female skills and from far-sighted of non-neutral, different, and therefore innovative thinking about the ways of living in the world. Only in this way will it be possible to develop, with a renewed public ethic, innovative practices aimed at sustainability, resilience, fairness, hospitality, and full accessibility for all to the places and spaces of the city.
More than 100 years have passed since the birth of the Bauhaus. Today, the revival of a European New BAUHAUS must bring the Green Deal to our places of life. It is credible and concrete ONLY if the female creativity, talents and knowledge, including the tiring daily life of women in the homes and spaces of the city, are at the centre of this new meeting space. This space for planning future ways of living is emerging between art, culture, social inclusion, science, and technology.
What actions for WNEB?
• Establishing a community of women’s practices and local experience as they aim for climate, social and environmental change, based on intersectionality and the daily life of the people who inhabit the neighbourhoods;
• Think-thank, digital seminars, at local, national and international levels that can be a stimulus to generate new ideas ;
Inés Sánchez de Madariaga
Anne le Maignan
2 In the manifesto of the Weimar School of Design, Art and Architecture, Gropius proclaims absolute equality between women and men, although he considers women not physically and genetically qualified for certain arts because they think in two dimensions, compared to their male counterparts, who think in three dimensions. In fact, female students are excluded from most of the courses and forced to follow lessons considered more appropriate to the female figure. More women than men enrolled in 1919, and Gropius insists that there would be «no difference between the beautiful and the strong sex”.» Those of the «stronger sex», however, have access to painting, carving and, since 1927, to the new architecture department of the school. On the contrary, the «beautiful sex» is diverted into weaving and ceramics courses. In the summer semester of 1919, the female share among admitted students, with 84 women compared to 79 men, exceeded 50%. Not all women, however, voluntarily accept the weaving orientation and, as a result of these restrictions, the number of women enrolling is constantly decreasing. Weaving is considered a form of artistic craftsmanship, and therefore relegated to the lowest positions in the hierarchy of art and design.