Project Bernburg (Saale)

Generating a Future in Education – Learning at the Centre

Education is the focal point in Bernburg (Saale) within the framework of the IBA 2010 urban redevelopment plan, The urban development of the inner city concentrates on education both in terms of content and spatial-structural considerations. From 2010 onwards, a dynamic place for learning and for the town, the new Campus Technicus with its approximately 650 students, is to be created in this historic hill town (the total number of secondary school students in Bernburg is about 1,000). The music school has already started working in rooms in the former castle prison. Bernburg (Saale), together with the Salzland local administrative district, has used the IBA process to develop the local education infrastructure with numerous cooperation partners from business and culture.


Until 1863, Bernburg was the seat of the dukes of Anhalt-Bernburg. Today, you can still see the castle high above the river Saale, “Anhalt’s crown,” where Till Eulenspiegel is said to have once been a trumpeter in the tower. The Solvay plant was opened in 1883. With the industrialisation at the end of the 19th century, the population nearly doubled, and for a time Bernburg was Anhalt’s largest town. During World War II, both parts of the historic old town—the Bergstadt (hill town) and the Talstadt (valley town) on the Saale—remained largely undamaged. However, during the period of the GDR, they were increasingly neglected. Many buildings were in ruins. The condition of the Talstadt was particularly catastrophic. It was to have been demolished to make way for a prefabricated concrete slab housing estate, but the political events of German reunification in 1989/90 put a stop to that. Since the mid-1990s, the historic heart of Bernburg has been undergoing renovation step by step.


Industrial Bernburg coped comparatively well with the economic structural changes following reunification. Traditional businesses such as those producing sodium, cement, rock salt, and pharmaceuticals survived and were thoroughly modernised. The construction of the A14 motorway and the B 6n trunk road significantly improved the town’s transport connections. Moreover, the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences’ departments of Agriculture, Landscape Architecture, and also Economics are to be found here. The prospects and potential so often mentioned really do exist, and the IBA’s activities in the town relating to the subject of “generating a future in education” has to focus on communicating this to future generations and making this concept comprehendible for them.


In 2003, almost 20% of secondary school leavers in Bernburg left without gaining any school qualifications. Local industry and the town feared there would be an increasing lack of qualified junior workers. The demographic development might intensify this trend still further. Currently ,approximately 28,000 people live in the Salzland county town. In 1995, it was as high as 36,000—the population of Bernburg alone has dropped by more than 20% in the last fifteen years. Today, only one tenth of Bernburg’s population is under fifteen years of age. In the school year 1999/00, over 4,100 students attended one of the five secondary schools available at that time in Bernburg, but within ten years, the numbers had sunk by more than 65% to 448 children and young people. Two schools were therefore closed and preschools amalgamated—of the original twenty-one institutions, only fifteen still exist. By 2025, it is predicted that there will be only 23,000 people living in Bernburg. It is therefore all the more urgent to qualify more young people from Bernburg for the future.

In the last five years, the town, together with school authorities, teachers, representatives of industry, as well as urban developers, have concentrated on “generating a future in education” for secondary school pupils. Since 2005, a start has been made by offering various possibilities for so-called productive learning, including days as interns in businesses, to improve the learning motivation and the educational skills of the future school leavers. The idea for a eventually campus emerged, amalgamating the three remaining Bernburg secondary schools coupled with developing a new school concept. Both parents and teachers were initially sceptical about this proposal. They feared that merging the schools would lead to a deterioration in the learning conditions. More than 40% of the pupils came from the surrounding communities and had already experienced one school closure. It was therefore crucial to seriously involve the teachers, parents, and students in developing the school concept. By 2012, the present three secondary schools will be merged into the Campus Technicus school, open all day. New school buildings will be built in the town centre for school grades seven to ten. Now that the Carolinum grammar school and the music school have settled in the Bergstadt, Bernburg’s secondary school students will move from the suburbs to the Campus Technicus in the heart of the town and be a firm feature of the future character of the town.


The idea of the Campus Technicus school, which is open all day and where practically oriented learning plays a central role, was developed by the teachers from the three secondary schools together with Bernburg’s BTZ vocational training centre as well as the Salzland district, in consultation with parents and students. The participants received help from the Jacobs Foundation and the “Deutsche Kinder- und Jugendstiftung” (German foundation for children and young people), who have together funded a pilot scheme for local education infrastructure. Since August 2009, the fifth graders have been learning in the new shared school in the Tolstoiallee school building. When they move up to the seventh grade in 2011, they will move into a renovated and enlarged school building dating from the late 19th century located in Leipziger Strasse in the town centre. From the ninth grade on, they will be able to use new rooms in the commercial school, which is under monumental protection and will by then have been upgraded and have a new extension. The heart of the campus is the so-called “greenhouse,” designed by the architects Junk & Reich and to be built by Hartmann & Helm. The new school will be open deliberately for the local community and provide space for its partners to use. The transparent multifunctional building with laboratories and workshops, a library, a media centre, a canteen, and a cafeteria is to be open to everyone—space for interschool and intergenerational events of all kinds. The cooperation partners of the Campus, such as the museum, the town theatre, and the music school, are easily accessible from there on foot.


In early 2010, the Bernburg music school moved into new premises in the old prison buildings of the court, a part of Bernburg castle. The second IBA project in the town of Bernburg consists of the reconstruction and upgrading of these buildings. The music school, which has been in existence since 1994 and is now sponsored by a charitable association, counts as one of Bernburg’s most important institutions for cultural education. The number of pupils it has illustrates a success story, despite a declining population. After German reunification in 1990, only about two hundred people came for lessons, but now more than five hundred residents of Bernburg take advantage of what the school has to offer. And the music students no longer consist only of children and young people—the proportion of adults is gradually growing.

Franziska Eidner, 2010

More pictures of Bernburg


Info: Bernburg (Saale)

(Municipal Area of  2010)
1989: 47.761
2009: 36.029
2025: 27.265 (Future Prospect)

Municipal Area: 113,45 qkm

IBA-Webseite of Bernburg