From Peace Centre to Socioculture

The association “Alter Gasometer – Soziokulturelles Zentrum e.V.” is the result of a development story that began in autumn 1989. In 1990, activists founded a peace centre at Innen Plauenschen Straße 16 in Zwickau. Besides this centre, the world shop, mothers’ group, initiatives with cultural and ecological offers as well as migration and children’s work enriched the centre. The diversity of the active groups experienced a bundling of their interests and resources in 1992 with the founding of the association “Bildungs- und Begegnungsstätte Buntes Zentrum e.V.”.

In the same year, the property was transferred back to the previous owner. For 7 years now, the Walther-Rathenau-Str. 12 the new home of the association. Children, youth and culture were given greater weight in terms of space and content. A band rehearsal room and the services offered by the Mobile Disability Assistance extended the spectrum of the facility. It was a temporary solution, because this property was also about to be transferred to the owner.

In 1994, the city of Zwickau and various municipal associations began to develop concepts for the preservation of the architectural monument Alter Gasometer, combined with a future use as a socio-cultural centre. On 29 October 1998, the Zwickau city council decided to expand the property. After 15 months of construction, the building was handed over to the operator “Alter Gasometer – Soziokulturelles Zentrum e.V.” on 23 August 2000. By way of merger, the association forms the legal successor to all activities previously known as the “Bunte Zentrum”.

Building history

The gasometer as we see it today did not stand then.

As Gasometer C, it was the third and largest gasometer on the Gasanstalt site. Construction began in 1874. Completion and commissioning took place in 1875. The capacity was 3000 m³. It was built according to the bell principle, i.e. a bell open at the bottom was guided in the masonry circular structure, which was extended to the top when fully filled. There was a 75 cm wide space between the wall and the gas bell, which was filled with water (in the winter months additionally with alcohol). The gas was produced from hard coal and coke, tar and ammonia water were marketed as by-products.

Gas was produced at this site in Zwickau until 9 November 1900. After its decommissioning, the gasometer served only as a storage room.

Since 1994, the city of Zwickau, the architects Andreas Kottusch and Michael Lotzmann, and associations in the city have been developing concepts for the preservation of this architectural monument and its future use as a community centre or socio-cultural centre. On 29 October 1998, the Zwickau city council passed a resolution to expand the property.

After 15 months of construction, the building was handed over to the operator “Alter Gasometer e.V. – Soziokulturelles Zentrum” on 23 August 2000.

The refurbishment and equipping of the property was made possible with funds from the European Structural Fund (URBAN) as well as from funds from the Urban Monument Protection funding programme by the Federal Republic of Germany, the State of Saxony and the City of Zwickau.

  • 1989

    Towards the middle of the year, Monika Dressel and some activists from the conciliar process groups began to think about founding a peace centre in Zwickau.

    On the fringes of a Monday demonstration in November, the first premises were wrested from the then city leadership at Innen Plauenschen Str. 16. The first work assignments followed.

  • 1990

    The association Friedenszentrum Zwickau e.V. was founded.

    On 1 September, a day of action marked the beginning of activities in public and in the already partially renovated building. A segment of the Berlin Wall was erected in front of the Peace Centre as a gift from Mr. Eppelmann, the disarmament minister of the GDR at the time.

    The house filled up with a library, world shop and mothers’ group. Associations and initiatives with cultural, educational and ecological offers as well as migration and children’s work expanded the spectrum.

  • 1992

    The groups with their diverse contents and resources bundled their interests by founding the association Bildungs- und Begegnungsstätte Buntes Zentrum e.V. (education and meeting centre).

    Due to the reassignment of the property to the former owner, a move was unavoidable. This first existential struggle ended with the provision of the property at Walther-Rathenau-Str. 12, where the move took place in autumn.

    This spatial home was also only temporary, because here, too, a reassignment was imminent. Nevertheless, many areas in the building were gradually renovated and made usable.

  • 1993

    The “Hinterhaus” is opened. A café as a multifunctional area for youth, culture, meeting, party, discussion, for people with and without disabilities, for locals as well as migrants and much more is created.

    A separate open children’s area is set up and opened.

  • 1994

    The work of the music workshop begins with a rehearsal room in the basement. The first band competition follows.

    In December, the AG Gasometer is founded. The city of Zwickau, architects and associations start planning the project “Alter Gasometer / Kleine Biergasse 3” together with the aim of securing a permanent spatial perspective for socio-culture in Zwickau.

  • 1995/96

    The institution Bunte Zentrum and its associations and initiative groups work continuously and in a wide variety of forms in the fields of culture, children’s and youth work, ecology, migration, peace and justice. The intensity varies greatly and is determined in each case by the resources available.

    In parallel, the project “Alter Gasometer / Kleine Biergasse 3” is being pushed forward to the best of its ability, but funding has not yet been secured.

  • 1997/98

    The realisation of the future perspective is becoming more tangible. The URBAN programme of the European Union is opening up funding for the Nordvorstadt area near the city centre. The area “Alter Gasometer / Kleine Biergasse 3” is also part of this programme.

    After the necessary council decisions, the redevelopment will begin.

    The association Alter Gasometer – soziokulturelles Zentrum e.V. is founded in 1997. Its aim is to prepare the structure of the facility, which will continue to grow in the future, to integrate other partners and thus to establish a secure basis for the future operation of the building.

  • 1999

    The first construction phase will be handed over in March. The building at Kleine Biergasse 3 has been extensively renovated and offers good opportunities for clubs, initiatives and projects in particular.

    At the same time, construction work will begin on the second phase. The Old Gasometer will be completely renovated and connected to the Kleine Biergasse with an intermediate building.

  • 2000

    In August, the work is finished and nothing stands in the way of the opening of the Old Gasometer. With funds from the federal government, the state and the municipality, an important core piece – the large hall for events of various kinds – was completed. The official opening of the entire complex took place on Wednesday, 23 August 2000.

    From 1 to 3 September, together with the city of Zwickau and Radio Zwickau, we designed the youth area around the Old Gasometer for the Day of the Saxons.

  • 2002

    After the successful securing of the space, the structural simplification took place. The association Alter Gasometer – soziokulturelles Zentrum e.V. (Old Gasometer – Sociocultural Centre) merged all the activities previously known under the term and association Buntes Zentrum (Colourful Centre) and practically became the legal successor and from now on the responsible body for the entire building.

    First joint staging of the band competitions of the “Young Lion” of the FAB and the music workshop of the Gasometer.

  • 2003

    First Newcomer Night on Zwickau’s main market square as the Gasometer Warm-Up for the Zwickau City Festival.

  • 2005

    The association has to discontinue its work in the area of open children’s work for financial reasons.

    The Old Gasometer takes part in the 1st Zwickau Art and Culture Mile

  • 2007

    The Alter Gasometer association acts as co-organiser and co-organiser of the 1st Zwickau Culture Night in July.

    The BarTerre opens in November and complements the association’s gastronomic offer.

  • 2008

    In December, the coordination office of the “Alliance for Democracy and Tolerance of the Zwickau Region” opens its doors under the auspices of the Alter Gasometer association.

  • 2009

    The young band competitions of the associations Alter Gasometer and FAB Crimmitschau realign themselves conceptually in their 16th year and change their name to the Zwickau Music Forum.

    In spring, the association begins preparations for the festival week “10 years of Alter Gasometer and 20 years of socio-cultural work in Zwickau”.

  • 2010

    The new children’s culture series “Meilensteinchen” gets off to a successful start.

    The association participates in the Schumann Festival Week on the occasion of the 200th birthday of Robert Schumann.

  • 2011

    In July, the new socio-culture/education department begins its work.

    The association donates a segment of the Berlin Wall to the city of Zwickau – The Zwickau Freedom and Unity Monument is presented to the public in front of the Old Gasometer on 3 October.

  • 2012

    Under the motto “Everyone is equal – everyone is different”, the children’s inclusion project “Rumpelwicht” starts with quiet and loud, colourful, crazy, relaxing and individual activities.

  • 2014

    “The dream of flying – Renaissance and all things new” – This was the theme of the fourth edition of our children’s circus holiday workshop week. The results were also performed, among other things, at the “Festival of the Reformation” in Zwickau.

    Voters’ forum for the local and state elections

    With the help of many partners, funding agencies and private donors, the Casablanca cinema can be digitised and thus show current programme cinema films again on the latest technical standard.

    As part of the 10th Youth History Days in the Saxon Parliament, we presented our exhibition “Football in Zwickau – past and present!” to the public for the first time.

    We carried out a media education project for the 12th Newcomer Night. A film documentary was produced.

    “Three years after – the victims of the right-wing extremist terror by the so-called NSU” – round table discussion among others: Barbara John, the ombudswoman for the bereaved families of the victims of the neo-Nazi terror by the so-called NSU. The Frankfurt lawyer Seda Basay-Yildiz shed light on the perspective of the Nebenklage.

  • 2015

    In April, the official ground-breaking ceremony for our socio-cultural project “Historical Village” took place.

    In July, our new “Coordination Office of the Zwickau Partnership for Democracy” starts its work.

    On the occasion of “25 years of German Unity”, the Alter Gasometer e.V. association organises a citizens’ festival with various partners on 3 October in the Muldeparadies.

    The media education project “25 Years | 25 People | 25 Stories” will be presented to the public for the first time on 3 October as part of the citizens’ festival with a round of talks, an exhibition and the launch of the project website.

    Among other things, we again supported municipal events such as FaN i.P, the Festival of Lights as part of the Schumann Festival, the Bathtub Fun Race on the Swan Pond, the historical craftsmen’s market on the first two Advent weekends in the Cathedral Courtyard, the Zwikkifax children’s festival and the market hustle and bustle as in Schumann’s day.

  • 2016

    Construction of the open space in front of the Old Gasometer by the City of Zwickau offers many parking spaces and completely new event possibilities.

    Work begins on the main building of the Zwickau Historical Village.

    Big Silverster party at the Old Gasometer: 4000 visitors to the “Night of Nights”.

  • 2017

    For the first time, we are participating in this Zwickau sporting event with our own team.

    We support and participate in the first volunteer fair on the main market square in Zwickau.

    Together with many partners, we facilitate the thematic redesign of the pedestrian tunnel at the central bus stop.

    During a weekend retreat, the team revised the mission statement for the Alter Gasometer facility.

    We cooperate with Volkswagen Saxony on educational offers for their trainees.

  • 2018

    We are involved in the festival year with various events of our own on the occasion of the theme year 900 Years of Zwickau. In addition, we provide support in various areas.

    Our old gasometer shines like a giant cogwheel for a whole week.

    We are significantly involved in the planning and realisation of the DAYS OF YOUTH on the open space at the Old Gasometer and the associated international youth meeting in summer.

    In autumn we will be able to open the Historical Village in its entirety during our AUTUMN FESTIVAL after a five-year development phase. The Prime Minister of Saxony, Michael Kretschmer, also drops by.

    We win the “Political Places in Saxony” prize awarded by the State Agency for Civic Education.

    The association completes its process of developing a new corporate design.

  • 2019

    We start 2019 with a new exterior, but remain the Old Gasometer as you know it. After almost 20 years, we decided to give the design a makeover. With the involvement of all staff, something modern and authentic has been created.

    For the youth council elections, local elections, European elections and state elections, we put together a diverse information programme with election forums, lectures and dialogues.

    Together with many partners we organise the first 10-day circus camp at our historic village.

    On the occasion of 30 years of Peaceful Revolution and 30 years of German Unity, we prepared with partners an extensive series of events for the period October 2019 to October 2020 in Zwickau and the surrounding area.

    From September 2019, we will start our work in the four towns of Crimmitschau, Kirchberg, Mülsen and Wilkau-Haßlau with our Streetwork Team.

    On 16 October, we organised the second communal day of remembrance to commemorate the first Zwickau Peace Prayer on 16 October 1989 in Zwickau Cathedral.

    We support the first puppet theatre festival in Zwickau and are also the venue.

    On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, we brought citizens together for a commemorative event at the Freedom and Unity Monument on 9 November.

  • 2020

    We have launched a new homepage for the field of democracy work in the Zwickau region.

    On the basis of the Infection Protection Act in connection with the Corona Pandemic, the Alter Gasometer Association is suspending all its public services – for the first time in its history – for the time being until 30 April.

    From the beginning of June we will start again step by step with over 40 events with a “Corona _ Summer Programme” and we now even have a summer stage in the Gaso Garden!

    We take part in different formats to point out the difficult situation for us as an association, club, organiser and our partners. EMPTY STAGES and NIGHT of LIGHT are just two of these actions.

    Zwickau now has a “path to industrial culture”. This connects the city centre with the area of the August Horch Museum and Audi Building in the northern part of the city. – the venue of the Saxon State Exhibition of Industrial Culture BOOM. A total of 18 buildings and places closely associated with the economic and industrial history of the automobile and Robert Schumann city were marked with panels and steles. The selected objects include buildings that stand for Zwickau’s industrial and economic history, for example our gasometer, which reopened as a socio-cultural centre 20 years ago in August 2000.

    After we have been even more present in the district of Zwickau with our Streetwork Team since 2019, we were also able to open the youth club in the town of Kirchberg at the beginning of the summer holidays.

    Anniversary year 2020
    The year 2020 is a very special one for our association, because several anniversaries are coming up.
    The Alter Gasometer building was completed 145 years ago as a gas storage facility and is now one of Zwickau’s most important industrial monuments.
    20 years ago, on 23 August 2000, after about 15 months of renovation, the Old Gasometer was reopened by the Old Gasometer Association.
    The Old Gasometer Association is the result of a history of development that began in autumn 1989. The first public day of action took place 30 years ago, on 1 September 1990 in the Inner Plausche Street.
    Detailed information on our anniversaries can be found on the following pages. Unfortunately, due to Corona, a number of planned events for the anniversary year have been cancelled.

    Election Forum for the OB Election
    The election forum organised by the Alter Gasometer Association and the Freie Presse attracted around 250 guests and all five candidates running for the office of Lord Mayor in Zwickau to the Neue Welt Zwickau. In five rounds of questions, the candidates were able to comment on various theses, and afterwards they also had to answer questions from the guests.

    Accompanying programme Year of Industrial Culture and Saxon State Exhibition
    The Year of Industrial Culture and the Saxon State Exhibition were accompanied by a large number of events and projects in our work areas. Unfortunately, some events were cancelled in late autumn due to Corona.

    Commemoration of 30 years of German Unity
    We commemorated 30 years of German Unity at the Freedom and Unity Monument and installed a video presentation in the Mulde Paradise as a “substitute” for the cancelled 2nd Zwickau Citizens’ Festival.

    The participants were able to present their views on the current Corona crisis from their respective perspectives. The participants were diverse, including independent organisations, volunteers, independent artists, small and large associations, as well as municipal businesses.

    The “Zwickau Ticker” is a 64-page scientific paper written by the Alter Gasometer association for the city of Zwickau. The paper was developed within the framework of the “Partnership for Democracy of the City of Zwickau” and presents a situation and resource analysis of the city of Zwickau with regard to existing elements of citizen participation, the social situation of specific population groups, such as migrants and children and young people, in the city, also with a view to demographic change.

    Since 1 November, the association has once again had to close down all its services due to corna. For the time being until 28 February. Support and counselling services and digital offers continue to run. This also includes the “24 Doors” campaign.

  • 2021

    Due to the tense Corona situation, the lockdown will be extended. The association is therefore concentrating more on online offers.