Promising Future for Building with a Past

Anyone interested in the unique building of the former school in Tanna, could join a guided tour of the „Alte Schule“ on 3 May. The vacant building has been a talking point in the local community, ever since Hannes Neupert suggested it should be renovated and used as a museum and training center for small electric vehicles.

The path to the school runs through a short, cloister-like tunnel, before it veers sharply right and up a steep hill to the front door. Coming out of the tunnel, the first view is of the renovated church, also perched on the low hill, not far away from the town square.

Long, long ago the school belonged to the church. The ruling prince of the day had swopped the right to administer the town school with the church, in exchange for the right to manage the forests surrounding Tanna. Over the centuries, the arrangement remained in place more or less unchanged. The only difference: At some point the school building was replaced and the church was required to rent it from the city, owner of the land the building stands on.

Stepping through the old wooden front door, the visitor gets the unmistakable whiff of old dust. The building was last used as a school in 1975. Since then it has stood vacant. One class room was the set for the filming of the movie „Soweit die Füße tragen“. All other class rooms are clearly recognizable as such – even without the school desks. Old tables, low exercise banks and wash basins, even a table for a teacher, reminds of the old school days.

When Hannes Neupert guides residents of Tanna through the building, some recognize their old class rooms. When the group reaches the third floor, an old boy of the school says the school director used to live here, but had to make way for the caretaker in the socialistic DDR.

Today the upperfloor is a single room, with wooden trushes where walls previously partitioned the rooms. Trushes without plaster, which have been left in place intentionally. For the first time, one gets an idea how innovative the renovators could be, without erasing the past.

The attic is also a single space without walls – testimony to the different political systems the school lived through. Pieces of old posters lie scattered on the floor, demanding peace in the post-war era. Another poster propagates the „benefits“ of collective farming and a lonely BRD sign is further witness to the period.

In future a selection of the oldest prototypes of small electric vehicles will be exhibited here such as electric bicycles and scooters. On the floors below the attic there will be training rooms and offices, as well as more exhibition space for the growing collection of electric bicycles at ExtraEnergy.

In this way ExtraEnergy president Neupert hopes to interest more international and regional guests in Tanna. „There are enough modern glass palaces“, he says. Especially appealing to him, is the contrast between the old building on the one side, and the modern vehicles it will house on the other side.

The visitors find both the suggested building plans and the pedelecs „interesting“. After all, „we’ve seen the bikes whizzing past us in the last few days“. The suggestion that the building should be torn down to make place for a parking lot, finds no supporters among these residents of Tanna. „We don’t need so much parking space,“ they say.

All agree that it „would be better if the building could be used“, but that would only be possible „if the money was at hand“. How to finance the renovation is still unclear. Since the building has been declared a protected building of historic importance (thanks to the efforts of ExtraEnergy) Hannes Neupert places his hopes on state aid.

Then the „Alte Schule“ of Tanna will be able to document the start of a new kind of mobility and accommodate pioneers again.

Photos of „Alte Schule“

Copy: Nora Manthey
Translation: Christoffel Volschenk
Photos: Patrick Knappick, Nora Manthey