The development of Plagwitz is characterised by peaks and troughs. Thanks primarily to the industrialist Carl Erdmann Heine, Plagwitz enjoyed a "Wilhelminian" boom in the 2nd half of the 19th century. Heine initiated the building of the canal later named after him with the objective of connecting Leipzig and Hamburg via the waterway. Although this plan has never been completed, at the time, the building of the Karl-Heine-Canal, nevertheless, provided a catalyst for industrial settlement.
Numerous large companies settled here and offered jobs. After about 60 years, however, the development potential was largely exhausted. Land became scarce.
Although the devastation caused by the Second World War was relatively minor, in the immediate aftermath, Plagwitz was unable to pick up the threads of success achieved in the 19th century.
The final end came with the reunification. 90% of the enterprises had virtually no hope of competing in the world market. Most of the companies were forced to declare themselves bankrupt. Living in Plagwitz has become unsustainable.
Left: View to Weissenfelser Bruecke, Stelzenhaus
In GDR times, it was misused as a sewer and was an example of extreme ecological pollution. Today, the heart of Plagwitz beats there once again: Along the Karl-Heine Canal, a 7,5 km long cycle and walk way has been laid which attracts people in fine weather. Weekend sailors navigate their boats along the canal or the Weisse Elster and tourists participate in one of the numerous tours on offer.
Examining the restored buildings of late 19th century industrial architecture more carefully, the richly detailed façades attract particular attention. Bricks in various colours, sometimes bordered by Elb sandstone, subdivide the axes, emphasise the window rhythm and give the buildings an individual appearance.
Weissenfelser Straße 65, 04229 Leipzig 1937 - 1939 A.: Renovation 2001/02 by Weis & Volkmann
The stilt house once accommodated a corrugated sheet metal rolling mill and a zinc coating shop. As land became scarce in the 1930s, the new building was put up very close to the Karl-Heine-Canal and built on 101 concrete piles. The architects Weis & Volkmann renovated the monument-protected building in an extremely innovative way and even set up their own office there. In 2004, for this project, they were awarded the Saxony State Prize for Architecture. There are other studios and a restaurant in the stilt house.
Living close to the workplace which has always typified Plagwitz is being revived, however, with the difference that, instead of the socially poor working class living here, today young people with good incomes and other ideas about lifestyle can realize their dreams.
The former Buntgarnwerke (Coloured Yarn Mill) on the shores of the Elster is regarded as one of the biggest "Wilhelminian-style" industrial monuments in Germany. Following extensive renovation, today it accommodates exclusive loft apartments, offices and professional practices.
(Co-operative Society's Head Office)
Industriestraße 85-95 04229 Leipzig 1929 - 1932 A.: Fritz Höger
The heyday of Plagwitz was already part of history when, between 1929 and 1933, the Co-operative Society's Head Office was set up on Industry Street. Co-operative societies were intended to support the socially weaker population in particular by operating a common purchase and sale policy.
Fritz Hoeger, who with the Chilehaus in Hamburg, had some years previously already erected a model building of expressionist architecture, followed local tradition by constructing this building entirely of brick. The dynamic architecture of the main shell is typical of the streamlined style of the time. Particularly noteworthy are the tower-like entrance projections, the entrance hall, the stairwell and the façades with the so-called "Bowl glass panes".
Even inside, the colour of the wall tiles, the brass mounts or the big "staircase bollard" evoke thoughts of water, distance and durability.
More impressions also from inside the building you will find on the DVD.
Plagwitz has almost coped with the changes, but there is still a lot of work to be done which is evident if you have a look behind the scenes or down the side streets.
At present the old cotton-spinning mill is experiencing a special type of metamorphosis. After shutting-down production, the 23 individual buildings were initially left vacant from the early nineties. In the meantime, with skilful supervision, they are being put to the most varied of uses. Artist studios and galleries beside workshops and offices. If one wanted to give the address of the current world-wide well-respected "New Leipzig School" of painting, then it is here in the gigantic brick-built complex of the "spinning mill".
A certain melancholy clings to Plagwitz' atmosphere. It's probably this, which not only imbues the suburb with its specific charm but also gives it its unique character.
› These page numbers
reflect to the book „LEIPZIG Architektur von der Romanik bis zur Gegenwart“