First week done in Leipzig! Classes are now in full swing and we’re finally getting caught up on some much needed rest this weekend. The city of Leipzig is currently filled by those participating in the Wave-Gotik-Treffen, or Goth Festival with visitors from all over Europe, along with preparation for the famous Bach Festival. And though there is much to discuss from the past week, I’ll focus this third post on our fascinating group trip to the Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei.
We visited the Spinnerei knowing beforehand that it was an old, renovated cotton mill. Excitement for the visit was high, and although we started our visit with the expectation of seeing an old factory, we left with a completely different knowledge of its history and current function in Leipzig.
The Spinnerei was constructed in the late 19th century from a growing demand for cotton-based products. It was finished in the early 20th century and climbed to the top of Europe’s cottons mills with an impressive 240,000 spindles by 1907. As World War II raged on and many of Germany’s great cities were firebombed, it was common that the Allies would destroy industrial facilities to slow German production lines. We learned on our guided tour that the Spinnerei was miraculously never bombed in the raids on Leipzig and a mystery remains as to why it was spared. Some attribute a green roof with plants and shrubs to the facility’s survival; rumor has it that there were so many greens roofs throughout the complex that it appeared as a grassy field from the air. There is some doubt regarding the validity of this claim, but it nevertheless leaves an air of intrigue surrounding the survival of the Spinnerei.
And while its history is fascinating enough, the real captivating aspect of the modern Spinnerei comes from its current use for the people of Leipzig. As we continued with the guided tour, it was very interesting to learn that new efforts were underway to reinvigorate the Spinnerei with a whole new focus after it officially closed production around 1993. Today, one can explore the facility to find a 60 seat movie theater that plays old circular films, printing presses for large artistic poster creation, and a slew of modern art galleries! Who would have thought that this old mill could now be home to what many call the “New Leipzig School” of art?
I was taken back by the end of our tour and really give credit to the investors, artists, and people of Leipzig for this amazing transformation. We perused the art galleries, gift shop, and local restaurant on site after finishing our tour and were amazed by the beauty of the modern exhibits. It is noticeable, particularly by the ceilings, in most of the galleries that the Spinnerei was once a mill; however, without looking up, I could’ve easily thought we were in a modern art museum or private gallery.
Perhaps the ultimate pleasure in seeing such a great new direction for the Spinnerei comes from the successful conservation and renovation efforts that made good use of the property. Rather than tearing it down like any old abandoned factory, genuine investment in the facility lead to the wonderful construction of a creative space that has a bright future in the city’s artistic scene. In travelling throughout Germany this last week and a half, one encountered the splendor of seeing many antique sites that are impressive for their age, size, and beauty. And though the Spinnerei underwent a modern transformation, it shares my admiration of its older, historical counterparts. In taking the Spinnerei from past to present, the building and all around it are proof of how modern conservation efforts really do work.
With three weeks left in Leipzig, I eagerly await exploring more of the city and seeing how conservation of the past produces resources and opportunities for today’s generation.