ZEKIWA old site in Zeitz – a vast field with a green future?

Published April 23, 2022

There are 37,000 m² of wasteland on the banks of the White Elster between the train station and the historic old town of Zeitz. Still untidy and littered, the old ZEKIWA site is an excellent opportunity to think and shape the future together: How do we want to live? Where do we want to relax, in which houses do we want to live and work?

Once upon a time, the traditional company of the ZEitzer KInderWAgenindustrie, with 2200 employees and origins far into the penultimate century, was the largest baby carriage factory in Europe, the city’s pride. But after political change with economic and monetary union, production ceased in 1991, and the factory facilities were demolished. The production facility and sales of ZEKIWA baby carriages have since moved to Kretzschau. The main building, which is protected as a historic monument, has been renovated for the Zeitz city archive. However, the former administration building is also a listed building and a large open area still lies fallow. Partially contaminated with pollutants, the old ZEKIWA site has become an eyesore in the middle of the city over the past three decades that needs to be eliminated.

As part of the Saxony-Anhalt New European Bauhaus project, the revitalization of the brownfield site is being developed together with SALEG Sachsen-Anhaltinische Landesentwicklungsgesellschaft mbH as a key project and development opportunity for the city of Zeitz. “Our credo: We shape the future in real-time!“ says team leader Martin Stein from SALEG. In the process, the structural change in the Elsterstadt is to be shaped together with the citizens and a basis for open discussions, exchange of ideas, and cooperative participation is to be created.

Initial proposals for the preparation of the old ZEKIWA site were developed by students of the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences from the departments of architecture and design in the winter semester of 2021/22. Imaginative names such as “Garden City Elsteraue“, “Village Weiße Elster” or “Elstergrün” hint at what is captured in the individual designs: worth seeing design and planning ideas with different approaches for everyday as well as sustainable living, living and working. An exhibition of the designs was presented by the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences in the course of the Saxony-Anhalt project “Together for a new European Bauhaus” from March 28 to April 01, 2022, in Zeitz.

First of all, the international group of students had to clarify what should become of the open space between the Weißer Elster and the city center and what expectations or wishes the people of Zeitz have. Two workshop discussions that were held a week before the exhibition of the designs, had the same goal. On March 17 and 23, 2022, the Zeitz urban community discussed perspectives, expectations and possibilities for the regeneration of the wasteland. In the process, citizens met with business, planning, culture and administration experts to record common ideas.

It turned out that the ZEKIWA brownfield site can be designed in a diverse and also value-creating way, so that livable meeting places with individual living and community spaces are created. The basis for this is resource-saving and climate-neutral planning as well as accessibility, usability and participation opportunities for all citizens. But intelligent systems for energy supply and innovative digital services are also essential components in the jointly developed plan. “Our current digital world of work and communication opens up spaces for models that completely rethink work and living in balance with children, culture and community,” summarizes Prof. Johannes Kister from Anhalt University of Applied Sciences.

The future of the old ZEKIWA site should already begin now! With the rescue of the threatened architectural monument of the former administration building by securing and subsequent redevelopment, a primary goal would already have been achieved. But it should not stop there: The remaining open space can be redesigned and used after waste removal. Not only real estate for future living and working will be created – but also meeting places for games, sports and art, with well-designed as well as safe pedestrian and bicycle paths are to be built here. With the project in the context of the Saxony-Anhalt project New European Bauhaus, the citizens of Zeitz can participate quite actively, contribute, and take part. Transforming the old ZeKiWa site into a green oasis on the White Elster River, offering opportunities for recreation and discussions about the future in Zeitz, is not only an excellent opportunity for the city of Zeitz and its people. It is also an invitation to shape the highly topical processes of population-centered structural change jointly.