The future called out, so we set off for Nieklitz.
The first time that I heard about Nieklitz was in an article in Enorm, “the magazine for social change”. Thanks to the “Wir Bauen Zukunft” Project (“We Build the Future” Project), the tiny village of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, some 70km east of Hamburg, found its way into the publication.
The article made me curious to see for myself the concrete appearance of the path to Utopia. An open house in the middle of August presented itself as a great opportunity to learn more. Jenna, Dennis and Patricia didn’t need much convincing … so, onward to “Meck-Pomm”.
During the introduction and opening presentation of the site’s new zoning plan, we, along with about 100 other visitors, learned about the project, the people behind it and this wonderful place.
The original idea focused on ways of bringing the Earthship concept along with the topics of self-sufficiency, sustainability and future-oriented living to Nieklitz and the surrounding region.
The planning phase became more concrete when the construction of Earthship Tempelhof in southern Germany paved the way for new connections that brought additional co-workers into the boat. The growing team came back from southern Germany with a fresh insight: something new can be created and built with the cooperation of many motivated people.
What Nieklitz is seeking to become, and is already in the process of becoming, is an experimental field for future-oriented innovative design, life and learning. One special feature of the site is that it has already been prebuilt in the form of what was formerly “The Future Center for Human – Nature – Technology – Science” (ZMTW).
In 2016 the newly founded cooperative “Wir Bauen Zukunft” purchased the insolvent park and began their operation on the 10 hectare site, which encompasses eight hectares of forest, 13 lakes and several pre-existing buildings. Open to the public are the café, seminar rooms and workshops with the possibility of overnight accommodation for seminar guests in lodging built in accordance with sustainable principles. Additionally, the group has plans for the construction of an “earthship”, an edible forest garden and agriculture designed according to Permaculture principles.
Behind the project is a colourful group of approximately 25 people from different corners of Germany with very different backgrounds (architecture, design thinking, business studies, film, communication, crafts, etc.).
“Wir Bauen Zukunft” seeks to serve as a “lighthouse”, or guiding project and to become a model for others. On the day of the open house, an invitation was extended to help realize the project and to contribute to it with our own projects. The only prerequisite for this is that the cooperative’s value-base must be respected. This includes the principles of cycle management, permaculture design, open space, sustainable building & planning, responsible coexistence and sustainable entrepreneurship. We would happily sign our names!
Also on the day’s agenda was the tour of the site. We had the choice of three main areas: “waterways”, “plants” and “buildings”. I decided for the latter, because I absolutely wanted to see the tiny house.
The tiny house, featuring 18 square meters of living space, was converted from a former construction vehicle using locally sourced wood. Niches along a winding path – the “Fairy Way” – have been created for future tiny houses.
Two other yurts are planned: one built from exclusively recycled material and a third more cost-effective version. Private living is currently only allowed on the premises for two caretaker families.
Hard work and probably some time pressure factored into the construction of the lodging area by upcycling artist, Hanna. Twelve additional sleeping areas had to be created in the seminar house for seminar guests, e.g. for the Open State of Politics Camp, held in early September. The sleeping “honeycombs” are all individually designed using almost exclusively used materials, e.g. for the slatted frames and mattresses. This zero-waste approach, of course, is something quite inspiring for us ;).
The last stop of the tour is the compost pile – a biomass power plant.
The large compost heap of wood chips and manure supplies the seminar house with about 18 months worth of heating. The cold water, which is channeled via pumps from the house into the compost pile, is heated up to approx. 70 degrees Celsius by fermentation processes before being fed back into the house. Jost explains (in German) the principle of a compost heating system here:
The open day ended with a screening of “Tomorrow: Take Concrete Steps into a Sustainable Future”. The project from Nieklitz would also fit perfectly into this inspiring and courageous film. After a few hours in Nieklitz, I feel just as I had after watching the documentary for the first time. Full of ideas and inspiration, we headed back to Hamburg. This was certainly not my last visit to Nieklitz.
Takeaway for the day: the future is better than its reputation.