Temporary Open-Air-Library opened in abandoned East-German District centre leaves permanent impression

Lesezeichen Salbke Open-Air-Library

date 2005-2009

Initially started through public intervention in 2005 to form a ‘social sculpture’ in an abandoned East-German District, The Open-Air Library in Magdeburg has served its local residents properly for the last seven years. The epitome of post-industrial city landscape, demonstrating high levels of unemployment and vacancy figures, such a project was particularly imperative for the city’s South East.

In 2005, Residents began by building a temporary 1:1 scale model for an open library in order to demonstrate their desired vision for a remodelled space. The design of which drew upon the area’s history and narrative, and they filled un-used nearby buildings as meeting points for their ideas. The model which was constructed was built over two days and used more than 1,000 loaned beer crates as the material, where residents stocked the shelves with donated books.

Image: (c) Anja Schlamann (pending permission)

Due to the success of the temporary structure, the project became part of a research project by the federal Government, and thus its permanent construction gained funding as a pilot initiative from the City of Magdeburg. Designed together with the local residents, The Open-Air-Library was opened in June 2009 with an open-bookshelf policy, whereby one may take a book at any time and should return it voluntarily. As well as the official library, a reading café is run by the local residents, where the area is denoted as a ‘Library of confidence’ where no registration or control is needed for its use. The area also functions as a concert space for local youth bands and other cultural and communal events.

Besides the unification of the local area, the architecture itself is a project highlight, whereby the library has been constructed using the façade of an old German warehouse, appealing to the initial residents,who wanted the structure to be recycled and environmentally friendly. The cost of the project came in at around €325,000, however the success of which is still too early to be determined, as arguably the true conclusion may only be drawn when lasting effects to the area can clearly be noted.