Gera, Häselburg

From vacancy to cultural center

Gera is located in the east of Thuringia. Once a princely residence, then an industrial city from the 19th century, and a district capital in the GDR, Gera now seeks its identity between a metropolis and a regional center. The mixed and contradictory experiences of transformation are reflected in the cityscape, politics, and cultural life. Today, Gera's city center is marked by vacant lots and empty buildings in many places.

However, just a few steps south of the marketplace, new developments can be seen: Since 2016, the Häselburg has grown opposite the new school campus of the Rutheneum Gymnasium, a new place for art and culture, education, and discourse. The three-part Gründerzeit building ensemble originally served as a girls' school and administrative center until it was sold by the city through a concept award after a long period of vacancy. Private developers Dr. Claudia Tittel and Burkhard Schlothauer won the bid with their vision of a free cultural center. After the Arrival StadtLand project call, the project followed with an IBA candidate status. Since then, they have gradually and carefully restored the 2,600 square meters of space to its original state and made it usable as a multi-talent center while following the IBA maxim: how little is enough? Planning and construction were mostly done in-house in a dynamic process with users, architects, and builders. Whenever possible, components were refurbished and reused. From the outset, there were interim uses to test and anchor the new cultural purpose of the well-known building complex in people's consciousness.

In 2022, the two parts of the former girls' school with a gallery, the Gera free art school, studios, the Altes Wannenbad event cellar, additional rental spaces, as well as rooms for artists and lecturers, will be fully utilized. The anchor tenant is the media education center of the Thuringian State Media Authority. The third part, the pointed former residential and commercial building, will be converted into guest rooms and offices for the cultural and creative industries. The ground floor provides space for a cultural café and association activities. A new sculptural staircase with an elevator by architect Thomas Laubert connects the three buildings and ensures barrier-free and fire protection-compliant access to the entire ensemble. A close connection between art and architecture is essential for the interior design of the Häselburg. Site-specific installations complement the existing structure and create new spatial impressions.

With its free art, meeting, and education spaces, the Häselburg attracts new target groups and contributes to testing a new urbanity in the city center. It's cultural offering enriches the city of Gera and radiates out to the region. Open-mindedness and social diversity are both a stance and a program.

Migrant perspectives and experiences are regularly present in exhibitions and summer academies. Questions of identity are negotiated in various art disciplines, media, and educational programs. The Häselburg is now involved in various local and regional networks. To strengthen this place for encounter and dialogue in Gera and to strengthen the synergies of cultural institutions and artists, the cultural café will be built by 2023.

The high engagement of the private building owners is remarkable in this project. Through personal commitment, they were able to activate a large vacant property in a challenging environment as a valuable resource not only for culture but also for urban development within a few years. This included not only art and architecture but also a sustainable operator concept and great flexibility in an open process. In addition to the existing building, plans for an extension were also developed as part of the IBA, in order to expand the uses with a contemporary architectural expression and to clarify the open urban situation towards the Stadtgraben. For this next leap of investment, Häselburg is still in a process of development and discussion, which is closely related to questions of societal support and building culture.

Gradually, the Gründerzeit ensemble, which covers 2,600 square meters, has been and is being activated with and for the future users. Two buildings have already been completed, renovations of the third part began in 2020.

The careful renovation was largely carried out in-house in a dynamic process with interim uses. The spaces are now fully utilized again by the gallery for contemporary art, the independent art school Gera, artist studios, the event space ›Altes Wannenbad‹, as well as artist and guest rooms. The anchor tenant is the media education center of the Thuringian State Media Authority. The expansion of the event spaces was financially supported by the Free State of Thuringia and the federal government, most recently through the program ›Neustart Kultur‹. In order to strengthen the Häselburg as a creative meeting place in Gera, a cultural café is also planned.

Häselburg_Treppenhaus_Thomas Mueller.jpg
Since 2020, a new sculptural staircase with an elevator designed by architect Thomas Laubert has been connecting the different parts and functions of the building.
The Häselburg plans to construct a new extension to complete the urban layout of the block and to expand its cultural facilities.

The new extension, planned as part of the IBA project, will provide a solution for the diffuse courtyard situation at the Stadtgraben and functionally expand the cultural center with a foyer and a studio. At the same time, a new access point to the inner courtyard will be created. As a free-standing sculptural element, the extension will become a visible stage for art and will act as an interface and invitation for creative dialogue with the city and its society in various directions.


Burgstraße 12
07545 Gera

Project Sponsor

Häselburg Besitz KG



  • Häselburg Besitz KG
  • Architekturstudio Mitte, Gera

IBA Project Manager

Dr. Bertram Schiffers


Gespräch mit Dr. Claudia Tittel und Burkhard Schlothauer_IBA Magazin 2022.pdf [pdf]


Häselburg im IBA Finale 2023
IBA Fachbeirat empfiehlt IBA Projektstatus für Häselburg
Arrival StadtLand Kongress
1. Sommerakademie in der Häselburg
IBA Fachbeirat empfiehlt IBA Kandidatenstatus für Häselburg

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