The Hundertwasser school - from the collective to the individual
In Communist East Germany, the architecture was as rigid as the political system. New towns built by the regime left little room for individualism.
The education system was the same. It was geared up - both in the style of the lessons, and the style of the architecture - to produce collective citizens, who would shun the idea of being "different".
After the reunification of Germany in 1990, the pupils of one school, in the Eastern German town of Wittenberg, successfully changed all that with a truly remarkable project. The school was built as an "Erfurt P2" model - one of 500 identical Erfurt P2 schools that were built all across East Germany. But the pupils and their new headmaster, Martin Sandau, believed that something else could be achieved. They wanted a school that they could identify with and make their own.
Sandau approached the Austrian artist and architect, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who became famous for his colourful architectural designs. He agreed to transform the school, free of charge, as his contribution to the democratic changes in the East. The building process began in 1992 and week by week, the once dull-looking school was transformed into something quite unrecognisable - a riot of colour and fairy-tale surprises. The new building has trees growing out of windows, hardly a straight line in the whole building, and varied architectural details throughout.
The problems of unifying two very different educational systems, from West and East, were bound to be difficult. Jana Wiederholt, who qualified as a history teacher under the old Communist system, says pressures she faced when adjusting to a new system, included having to learn whole subject areas which were absent from the old curriculum. Above all, she believes that the changes in Germany are generational. The words "East German" and "West German" are, she believes, now outdated clichés: "Our children are just German."
Website of the Luther-Melanchthon-Gymnasium, real name of the "Hundertwasser school" - after Martin Luther, who was a son of Wittenberg. In German and English.
The mosaics of Hundertwasser
Biography and work of the Austrian artist who said: "The straight line is ungodly". In English.