Slender, pointed gable windows and a rosette in the middle of the red brick facade make the Pfännerhall central workshop look more like the outside of a church. But once inside it is patently clear that this building was once used to house briquette-making machines and repair locomotives. Nowadays the workers here are faced with an incomparably larger task: cleaning up and re-cultivating the old mining topography in the Geisel valley and developing it into a recreational area for tourists.
Water plays a major role here. An area of lakes is being created in the Geisel valley which will also include the largest man-made lake in Germany. It is intended to cover the deep scars left by 300 years of brown coal mining without, however, wiping out the past completely. The region once enjoyed the reputation of being the richest source of fossils in the world. In 1933, for example, miners in the Cecilie Pit discovered the complete skeleton of an early forerunner of the horse. This has since gone down in the annals as the "Geisel Valley horse". The Pfännerhall central workshop, built between 1923 in 1928, also has a rare value since it is one of the last remaining architectural witnesses to regional mining history. A part of the works hall, which bears the name of a nearby spoil pit, was used for repairing engines and equipment from the neighbouring briquette-making factory in Braunsbedra. The area at the back of the hall contained a testing bay for wagons and electric locomotives. When mining came to an end in the Geisel valley in 1993 the building was threatened with demolition. The fact that it was saved is in no small measure due to the commitment of a circle of designers and artists at the Burg Giebichenstein College of Art and Design in Halle. They founded a supporting society which in 1999/2000 ensured that the central workshop would be cleaned up according to monument preservation standards, and repaired in such a way that it could be reused.
Nowadays the historic building presents cultural events, seminars, workshops and conferences, including the well-known "Geisel Valley Future Forum". The aim is to ensure that the history of the area is preserved, that the new post-mining topography is carefully designed, to encourage cultural and educational events, and to make the site well known beyond the immediate region.
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