Somewhat hidden along a side street in Apolda, the Eiermannbau is no more than a 10-minute walk away from the railway station. The iconic building from the 1930s is now a modernist monument and exemplifies the design principles of its architect Egon Eiermann: logic, purity and clarity. Initially a weaving mill and later a fire extinguisher factory, the building has stood vacant for many years. Today, its large blue-framed windows still look out over industrial wasteland where production works once stood, the view extending as far as the allotments and slab blocks in the distance.
In Jena or Weimar, a building of this calibre would not stand empty, but the demolition of the historical monument was out of the question. From an ecological and economic standpoint, options need to be explored – conservation, reuse, conversion or recycling – that can recast vacant property as a valuable resource for the future, also in locations like Apolda.
In 2017, the LEG Thüringen State Development Agency took over ownership of the Eiermannbau. The LEG has experience of tackling the problem of vacant property throughout the region. Together with IBA Thüringen, it is pursuing an innovative approach in Apolda: by granting an exclusive option period, it has given the IBA Thüringen the opportunity to gradually and successively develop a concept for the building by 2023. The aim is, in the direct vicinity of the booming towns of Weimar and Jena, to establish the Eiermannbau as a lighthouse project for the sustainable reactivation of vacant buildings that can serve as a model for other locations and buildings in Thuringia. By asking how much, or how little, is enough, the IBA aims to reappraise the assumptions of prevailing building standards and usage models: What investments are really necessary? How can rents be made affordable? And, how can a modernist architectural icon be turned into a diverse environment for creative minds and makers – into an Open Factory.