Lesezeichen Salbke - Magdeburg - Germany
The façade elements of a demolished department store in West Germany became the main feature of a symbolic building in eastern Germany - standing for the activation and revitalization of a city center suffering from a shrinking population and vacancy.
The idea for Lesezeichen [bookmark] Salbke, both an outdoor library and a public square, was developed by KARO* in collaboration with local residents.
The neighborhood library had burned down in the 1980s; in the fall of 2005, the architects stacked one thousand beer crates on the fallow lot, creating a temporary bookshelf.
From the two-day campaign evolved a citizens’ initiative, followed by a civic library, which was opened in a vacant store.
It was not until 2009 that the Lesezeichen followed as a permanent structure. Its imported aluminum façade elements are familiar: many of the GDR’s modern department stores bore similar fronts.
That the modules are actually from Hamm in Westphalia (Western Germany) is mere coincidence.
The architects had heard of the planned demolition of the local Horten department store from the 1960s, and could purchase its façade elements along with their substructure from the municipality for under commodity value.
Recessed openings cut into the façade are used as display cases for local clubs, as seating nooks, and as bookshelves that are accessible around the clock.
The appropriation of the façade elements from a former temple of consumption to serve new cultural purposes has retained something of the charm of the first temporary beer crate installation.
After all, the Salbke Civic Association had explicitly called for “recycling architecture.”