living lab

A fallow site in Oßmanstedt is the pivot, home and first project of the Institute for Grey Energy. Located on the railway line between Weimar and Apolda in Thuringia, storage facilities were created here by the Raiffeisen cooperative for the surrounding farming community at the beginning of the 20th century. The site was in use until 1990 and has now lain derelict for over 30 years, with the storage sheds having collapsed, the area overgrown and only the transformer station and, in particular, the 24-metre-high granary built in 1938-1941 remaining.  

Granary in Ossmannstedt, view from south

Why Ossmannstedt?

The site has an immense mass of building material, in which we see a high potential for grey energy and a CO2 reservoir.  

  • The special building typology and its location beyond the metropolises require new approaches to conversion and re-use in the sense of resource conservation.
  • The visibility from afar as a deteriorated landmark in the Ilm valley requires a new occupation and opening of the well-known site.
  • The period of its construction under National Socialism requires a determined examination of further historical and social dimensions of grey energy.

The site in Oßmannstedt is an example of heritage that is perceived as uncomfortable and can be found in a similar form throughout Europe. For the Institut für Graue Energie the site serves as a living laboratory for the joint examination of grey energy. At the same time, it is the centre and starting point of the institute with its associated studio, archive and platform for cooperation.


Due to its character as a real laboratory, the area will be used again in the long term, reassessed and adaptively reinterpreted.

The construction of a grain silo made of reinforced concrete requires a considerable amount of resources. In the future, construction projects like this will only be possible at great social and financial cost. Demolition or complete reconstruction – for example as a residential tower – could not be justified in this way. In the long term, the most economically and ecologically sensible use is to re-designate the site as agricultural land. The interim use of the Institute serves to preserve the building over this period.

In order to keep this vision possible, it needs gradual, smallest possible and reversible interventions along the basic structure of the building. The strategies of the studio are to be tested in the real laboratory in a radical form, so that a minimum amount of energy must be applied for the greatest possible use.

Project procedure

After the purchase process has been completed after about half a year, we will be able to start the first work on the site in June 2021.

We are currently conducting a detailed inventory of the area. The focus is on finding grey energy on site. Existing materials and structures as well as previous appropriations and transformations by nature and humans are being recognised, understood and upgraded.

In parallel, a nucleus for future uses will be created in the former transformer station. This will include sleeping, washing and cooking facilities. From here, the transformation of the area will begin.

The initial work will primarily involve sorting, relocating and, if necessary, disposing of hazardous materials. In addition, we are developing a concept for dealing with existing flora – especially ruderal vegetation – and fauna – the site is also a biotope for insects and small animals. Only partial areas and a repair strip are cleared around the buildings in order to erect scaffolding. Subsequently, emergency securing of the buildings, in particular the repair of the attic roof, is planned. From this point on, it will be possible to open up the area for experimental and cultural forms of appropriation. Initial talks are being held with cooperation partners such as TRAFO Jena, the initiative Fabrik.Weiterstricken in Apolda and the Godot Complex in Weimar.

The first use of the warehouse is to begin in the so-called funnel room (Trichterraum) on the ground floor. The room, which is currently completely walled off, will be opened up piece by piece along the original windows and doors and access to the building will be made possible. The ground floor, which is now illuminated, will house the studio and at the same time a low-threshold exhibition and discussion space of the institute, which will be explicitly opened as a place of learning and encounter – conceivable collaborations would be with the Klassik Stiftung Weimar, which is already represented in the Wielandgut in Oßmannstedt, or the universities from Weimar, Erfurt or Jena.

The granary in the landscape
The transformation station

Another intervention is planned in the area above the funnel room, which houses 13 silo cells with a height of twelve metres next to the staircase. The largest of these cells is to be used for testing archive use. For this purpose, a subsidiary structure is to be placed in the “grey cell”, which will serve as a non-public space for storing archive materials and literature. Since heating is not currently planned and the archive does not require thermal energy, the active period of use will be concentrated on the summer.

Further uses will only arise with the utilisation of the materials located there. This concerns, for example, the cellar where tyres have been stored so far and which would be suitable as a workshop, or the wasteland of the storage sheds where bricks and broken concrete have been stored so far and which could function as a covered open space with various uses. Until then, the areas serve as CO2 storage.