„Free Garden Erfurt“ the place everything started…

In close cooperation with the association Plattform e.V. we operate the “Free Garden” in the middle of a “Plattenbau” (prefabricated concrete buildings, iconic in East-European architecture) living complex in the southeast of Erfurt.

In a typical satellite city area, with its’ tightly spaced concrete buildings, 20.000 people live in three neighbourhoods. As in other “Plattenbau“-areas of bigger cities, here one speaks of a “social imbalance” and feels the, through many factors influenced, discontent of the population. Due to the lack of investing and missing holistic planning concepts in the neighbourhood development, today these city areas are perceived as structurally weak areas.
In 2015 this place seemed perfect for us to initiate a participative gardening project. And like this a blooming oasis of civic engagement was created on the grounds of the community centre Herrenberg. Over the years our team of volunteers gathered here and in the summer of 2020 founded the educational association Next Level in order to share our made experiences and to go new ways in the area of ecological education.

Today the area is frequented by inhabitants of every age, who plant vegetables and appreciate a cool spot outside during the hot summer months. We are supported by volunteers at the site and the close cooperation with the Plattform e.V., who manage the property and operate the participative community centre “STZ am Herrenberg”. Here we frequently organise educational and holiday events for kids and adults, focusing on ecological topics and healthy way of living. Through do-it-yourself workshops and craft-camps we teach craftsmanship, give help to self-help and expand as well as upgrade the garden. The place additionally has a great significance as a space for social exchange and coming together. It serves as a nature-near place of wellbeing in which young and old meet known and unknown, intergenerational education and participation are lived.
Over the topic “Urban Gardens as holistic solution approach in structurally weak spaces” in our educational programme “Greencademy”.