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unbauhaus: a collective UAL response to New European Bauhaus

Blue graphic banner with building style silhouette design and the hashtag #unbauhaus
Blue graphic banner with building style silhouette design and the hashtag #unbauhaus
UAL #unbauhaus
Written by
Cat Cooper and Kat Smith
Published date
18 June 2021

UAL curated a half-day public event on July 7 called unbauhaus, articulating our collective response to the European Commission’s New European Bauhaus (NEB).

The initiative is a call to shape the future of Europe as a creative and interdisciplinary movement in the making. Aiming to connect the European Green Deal to our living spaces, NEB calls for us “to imagine and build together a sustainable and inclusive future that is beautiful for our eyes minds, and souls.”

Committing to social and climate justice requires dismantling and reimagining the ‘new’. As a contemporary creative university, UAL encompasses many art and design practices, research and partnerships that allow us to approach and engage in societal challenges in unexpected ways. Confronting injustice and unsustainability in our societies and ways of living today, we explore alternatives, make the invisible visible and the inaudible heard, and enable different ways of seeing, listening, thinking and making.

unbauhaus responds to the call by offering a range of critical and creative perspectives on NEB’s values – ‘beautiful, sustainable, inclusive’. With this response, we challenge the NEB’s framing and suggests possible alternative futures. We explore 3 questions, developed to clarify what creative universities such as UAL, connected to diverse systems and practices with partners and collaborators across the world, have to offer:

Beyond Beauty: How can we imagine and create objects, practices, structures and places that acknowledge and address exclusions, absences and silences?

Matters of Inclusion: What formats and forms of sensory and creative engagements can be imagined and realised to bring about inclusive and diverse participation, deliberation and agencies?

More than Sustainability: What equitable, circular, anticipatory relations between non- and human beings (past, present and future) and Earth ecologies can be imagined and realised?

Watch the recording of UAL unbauhaus

Speakers included

  • International scholar, digital artist and course leader for BA (Hons) Virtual Reality, Dr Annie Wan, London College of Communication, UAL
  • Founder and Director of Centre for Sustainable Fashion, London College of Fashion, Professor Dilys Williams FRSA
  • PhD candidate designing feminist pensions policy, Daniella Jenkins, Central Saint Martins, UAL
  • Professor Pratap Rughani, award-winning documentary filmmaker and Associate Dean of Research, London College of Communication, UAL
  • Designer and architect, Executive Director of Dark Matter Laboratories, Indy Johar

Agenda

13:00 Welcome from President and Vice Chancellor of UAL, James Purnell

– Beyond Beauty

– More than Sustainability

– Matters of Inclusion

15:20 Round table moderated by Professor Shahidha Bari, Professor of Fashion Cultures and Histories, London College of Fashion, UAL

16:00 Close


Background

New European Bauhaus is currently in a co-design phase and invites inputs to shape an emerging agenda that will inform future EU investment including Horizon Europe and the Green New Deal.

As part of the co-design phase, academic institutions, city governments, civil society organisations, including some in art and design such as ELIA and the Bureau for European Design Associations, and many others, have published papers, organised events or become partners. Some of them have raised important critical and contextual perspectives, for example Jan van Eyck AcademieArchitects’ Council of Europe and German Fashion Council.

The European Commission (EC) also hosted a 2-day conference on NEB in late April including politicians, creative practitioners, NGOs and activists outlining and responding to these initial ideas. The NEB is advised by a high-level round table of cultural ambassadors.

In May 2021 UAL staff and students were invited to contribute individually and collectively to the wider NEB initiative and to the unbauhaus event.

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