Friday Group: Water + Water Purification

The whitecaps on the river Mulde and the stench in the 1980s are still a vivid memory for many people in Dessau. Living by and with the river was unimaginable under these conditions. This changed after German reunification.

Restoring the old Mühleninsel (mill island) with its mill stream or even letting the water flow over Romanjukplatz (now the Rathaus-Center) into the city centre were the most visionary ideas in a whole series of designs and planning ideas to reinvent “Dessau as a city on the Mulde”. Based on this, the ninth Friday Group is dedicated to life by the water and with water.

With the end of the GDR chemical industry, the stench and foam have disappeared and the river is once again full of life. The Dessau-Wörlitz Garden Realm and the alluvial forests have become popular leisure and recreational areas. But the poison in the soil and water has remained in many places. The floodplain meadows north of Bitterfeld are contaminated with the poison beta-HCH (β-hexachlorocyclohexane). Mown grass has to be disposed of as hazardous waste and farming is no longer possible. Under the town of Bitterfeld, a toxic groundwater bubble is kept in check with many millions per year and a so-called well bar so that it does not spread further into the groundwater system and pose a risk to people’s health. The drought of recent years has meant increasing stress for the ecosystem. New industrial settlements, such as Intel in Magdeburg, pose a further challenge as they require a lot of water.

Under these conditions, how can the desire for living by and subsisting on (!) the river be reconciled with reality? And where are the levers to sustainably restore the obviously disturbed water balance?

The local starting point for the ninth Friday Group is a student project from Anhalt University of Applied Sciences entitled “Dessau-Roßlau – Stadt im Fluss” (Dessau-Roßlau – City in the River), the images of which have sparked a new discussion. In the discussion, we will present other current projects that are committed to sustainable water management and enter into dialogue with the protagonists.

As an example from recent Bauhaus history, we will recall the “Neue Mulde” (New Mulde) project and water purification gardens. It was created in the 1990s as part of the “Industrial Garden Realm” Bauhaus project.


6 pm

Welcome and Moderation

Barbara Steiner, director and CEO, Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, and Heike Brückner, research associate, Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

6:05 pm

Dessau-Roßlau – City in the River, a future scenario for Dessau (20 min)

// Introduction

Moritz Michael, Tom Gernegroß, designer

A canal runs through Dessau from south to north. In the future, you will be able to walk along the banks of a canal where car traffic currently rolls along Kavalierstraße. Boats will be travelling on the water. A dragon boat race takes place in the canal in front of the Bauhaus Museum.

6:25 pm

Economic interests versus nature protection? (20 min)

// Impuls lecture

Guido Puhlmann, Biosphere Reserve Middle Elbe

The Elbe is the last large river in Germany that is still relatively natural and, with its floodplains, a centre of biodiversity. Can the goal of turning the Elbe into a year-round waterway be achieved? The intensive construction measures of recent decades have not benefited freight shipping, but have harmed the river landscape.

6:45 pm

Flooded McDonalds (40 sec)


6:46 pm

New Mulde and Water Purification Gardens

// Impuls lecture

Ulrike Antonia and Leo Sztatecsny, landscape architecture office interplan (20 min)

The New Mulde project was developed in the 1990s by Ulrike Antonia and Leo Sztatecsny together with the land art artist couple Helen Mayer and Newton Harrisson as part of the “Industrial Garden Realm” Bauhaus project. The idea was to restore the water balance in the region, which had been disturbed by the brown coal opencast mining, through measures such as repairing the course of the Mulde and water purification gardens on the edges of the opencast mines. In this way, a contribution from recent Bauhaus history is brought back into consciousness and linked with current questions: What was the concept back then, why was it not realised? Why would it have been right from today’s perspective?

7:10 pm

As Close as We Get (4:56 min)


7:15 pm

Water Experiments (20 min)

// Interactive format

At the same time

Food and Drink

Water soup and water tasting

Beyond the End of the World (1:27 min)


What’s next? Current Trends and Projects

// Discussion

Wastewater, drinking water, groundwater, grey water … water is a common good. The common task of protecting and conserving it, recycling it or purifying it is being tackled by a wide variety of social players. We present and discuss current trends and practical examples.

Erwin Nolde, Greywater Recycling in a Berlin Student Hall of Residence as a Pilot Project (15 min)

David Schacht, Wasserwerk der Zukunft e.V. (15 min)

Katharina Müller, Finizio Future Sanitation, Eine Zukunft ohne Wasserklo (A Future without Water Closets) (15 min)


Next Friday Group: 14 June 2024, 6 pm > Art + Environment (in cooperation with OSTEN – Festival in Bitterfeld-Wolfen)