The settlement is like an open book. It tells the intricate story of the affluence and awakening of a once thriving industrial region. A gabled manor house here, an English-style country cottage there, bright colours, timber framework details, art nouveau features and decorative touches on façades and railings, not forgetting the front gardens, the allotments, the lime trees by every front door and the tree-lined avenues, their branches meeting in the middle to form a protective canopy. It is hard to believe that this smart area of Brieske in Lower Lusatia started out as a “workers’ colony”, whose inhabitants earned a living in the adjacent Marga lignite mine and briquette manufacturing industry.
The Ilse Bergbau-Actiengesellschaft was the company operating the industrial site, which has since shut down. Between 1907 and 1914 it had the workers’ settlement of Marga built as a garden city – an urban base emphasising community spirit and quality of life in deliberate contrast to the impoverishment of the industrial conurbations. It was a highly ambitious project, all the more so as Lower Lusatia was known as the “dust bowl” of Brandenburg at that time and was correspondingly sparsely populated. As a result, suitable housing had to be created for large numbers of workers. In meeting this requirement Marga became a flagship garden city, offering from the outset everything needed for a community to function: church, school, inn, a department store flanked by workshops and retail outlets, even a library and a cemetery. Today, owing to thoughtful restoration, this can all be viewed in its former glory. They have even succeeded in adapting listed buildings to modern living standards. In addition – with the support of the Internationale Bauausstellung (IBA) Fürst-Pückler-Land – an industrial estate is expected to provide new jobs on the site of the largely demolished briquetting plant, rendering Germany’s oldest garden city fit for purpose for the next 100 years.