While the partnership activity ‘Weaving the Wild’ is getting closer and closer Paradiso Ritrovato wants to let you know a bit more about the amazing partners who will take part in this project, here’s what the intentional community of Tonndorf Castle, Germany writes about its beautiful project!
A medieval tower overgrown with wine dominates the country and tells the stories of bygone eras when possessiveness and fear have towered four meter thick walls of solid stone …
A 40 acre hillside with a complex of historic buildings welcomes todays visitors with children’s laughter and a gently smiling pregnant woman – a wooden statue whose curved belly shelters one of the 100 bee colonies of the place thereby creating a buzzing cloud of fertility from Spring to Fall around the entrance portal … Welcome to Tonndorf Castle!
Since 2005 this place brings together people who revive this property situated admidst the soft hills of Thuringia close to Weimar – a town that was once the home of Goethe, Schiller, Bach, Liszt, Nietzsche and other famous German artists and philosophers, as well as the birthplace of the Bauhaus movement. The community includes both – families and singles. Their backgrounds and life experiences are very different and will contribute to many more Winter conversations in front of the fireplace. All people here share, however, the desire for a self-determined, meaningful life, for mutual everyday support and for an inspirational human atmosphere.
The vision and actual practice here is the rehabilitation and maintenance of the monument and its associated open spaces (many of them are protected natural habitats) for an intentional community of up to 80 adults and children. This includes the conscious effort to revive a regionally important ensemble of the cultural landscape of Thuringia. Since the acquisition of the castle through a shared cooperative the community has opened parts of the property for the general public thereby reclaiming the place for the public consciousness.
On the other hand the community creates a kind of elective affinity and wants to test a livable alternative to the harsh consequences of the demographic change and the increasing isolation of people all over Germany. What the people here look for is a freely elected and undogmatic association of people who can rely on their mutual solidarity.
At this point the community includes 37 children and 28 adults. Their age ranges from 0 to 59. 16 children have been born since the creation of the community – some of them in the castle itself with the help of the communities midwife. Adam – a five year old boy – was even born in one of the gardens. Contrary to an old castle legend, which tells of the misfortunes of a childless Count pair and also in contrast to the long-standing use of the castle as a nursing home, the place experiences a true blessing with children.
The adults? Well – the range of their professions encompasses such diverse areas as organic farming, beekeeping, sustainable building (eg straw bale), obstetrics, medicine, education, children’s circus, music, architecture, landscape architecture, carpentry and carselling. Moreover, it is probably never too late for a happy childhood: those who ever wiatch the men of the community drive a miniexcavator on one of the many building sites around the castle hwill probably also see a happy smile flitting across their lips …
All residents of the estate are owners and tenants at the same time. Decisions on joint projects are made by consensus. The project has no built-in hierarchy. While the shared cooperative is used for the management and development of the property, an additional association has been created to serve as an umbrella for all activities in the field of nature conservation, environmental education and culture.
Community life at Castle Tonndorf offers the chance to think about different aspects of life and re-create them in a self-determined way. These include: dealing with the children, the support of single parents, the involvement of older people in daily interaction but also a creative exchange and mutual support in the professional self-realization.
Yet there are hard parts of everyday life, too: to live admidst an ongoing construction site including many temporaries, to sometimes struggle for collective decisions by consensus, to face the need to redefine a shared vision again and again and to have to say goodbye to cherished people leaving every now and then…
Besides the expansion and remodeling of residential and workshop areas the use of the property now includes horticulture, a catering kitchen, a cheese dairy, orchards, sustainable forest management and maintenance, joinery and metalworkshops, circus camps, work camps and seminars offering knowledge in the fields of community foundation, nonviolent communication, pruning fruit trees, GMO-free agriculture and others.
Since two years the communities own kindergarten – placed in a small valley admidst forest and meadows – invites the children of the community and those of the area to walk into life in a loving atmosphere and with plenty of fresh air. A private school? Exactly – we work on that…
The longterm plan is to create a village-like cluster of houses constructed of wood, straw bale and other organic buildimg materials and placed around commonly used open spaces. Ultimately, there will be about 80 people belonging to the community.
From its very beginnings the community members have invited the public to witness the constant revival of the place. Between construction containers and childrens bicycles we offer regular guided tours for school classes and for groups of hikers and we organize public celebrations, concerts, lectures, exhibitions and markets with about 6,000 visitors each year. There is a temporary cafe for interested visitors and every now and then the tango enthusiasts of the area dance through the castle’s foyer.
Of course, all guests are supposed to move around with respect for the privacy of the residential areas so that the inhabitants don’t feel misunderstood as museum exhibits. Still – as now and then (and despite numerous signs) curious visitors get “lost” all the way into the castles common dining room still „looking for the public entrance“ they will either face a friendly goodbye or an invitation for a cup of hot apple punch .. .
The latest information on the project is available online at www.schloss-tonndorf.de or through a regular newsletter.
This article was written by Thomas Meier – an architect and project developer – who is one of the founders of the community.