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01. Reading in the Subtle Realm

When I first visited the place, I would have liked to turn back quickly. The listing lingered on eBay Classifieds for over six months for good reason. The building was practically unsellable. Too disfigured, too large for a family, and definitely not worth it for an investor.

The First Encounter in 2012. The historical facade of the manor house had been destroyed in the seventies.

The formerly brick arches were replaced by a corrugated metal roof. The original brick facade was covered with scratch plaster.

The rooms had cooled down to minus ten degrees Celsius on this cold winter day in 2012. The mansion (as it was called in better times) had been empty for several years. A leaky roof and broken windows had led to water damage and fungal infestation.

Reading in the Field

The initial impression was depressing. Yet, there was also a sense of what had been. I looked through broken windows into the past. It's like watching a film that runs quickly, invisibly, and inexplicably. There was once a lot going on here, I sensed.

It must have been a beautiful place. That's also why the house felt so melancholic: it seemed to still mourn what once was.

This is a peripheral and atmospheric perception. When I focus my attention on it, it disappears. Its content is difficult to put into words.

However, since it was an important element in our decisions, even their foundation, I talk about it here.

One assumption is that it communicates with a subtle field. There seems to be "stored" what once was and perhaps could be again (differently).

Tour of the upper rooms a few weeks later.

Traces in the Visible

Much has left tangible traces here. There were signs of the post-war period and clearly recognizable changes, destruction, and transformations from the socialist era.

The historical tile stoves had been removed. It is still visible in the rooms where they once stood. Many doors were missing, window openings were reduced, ceilings were lowered, and so on.

As I walk through these clearly visible changes, I delve into deeper layers of the past.

The time of origin. Two mentalities overlap

More striking and substantial than these more recent layers was for me the mentality still present, from which the building was constructed.

This was, on the one hand, conservative and preservative and reached far back into the prehistory of the actual construction activity: The manor house was built by the Prussian Minister of the Interior, Otto von Manteuffel, around 1855. Previously, there was an old manor house on the site. From there, one could (and still can) see a medieval church.

Otto Theodor von Manteuffel was a loyal minister who advocated conservative principles. Lithograph excerpt by Jaques Gauderique, Royal Collection Trust.

The classically inspired doorways (lower left illustration) reach back stylistically to the early eighteenth century. The building was constructed in an old tradition and technique, using materials that today would certainly be described as ecological or sustainable.

However, apart from the bitumen roofs that were emerging at the time, which in a way already signaled a new intellectual orientation, the "founder period" or then "modern era" was initiated.

Two captures around 2012. Two overlapping styles. Even though the facade was largely destroyed, some portal doors and other historical elements in a classical Prussian style were still found inside the building.
The effect of the large stable rooms, on the other hand, already resembles the emerging Gründerzeit (founder period).

In addition to this conservative attitude, which was connected to national identity, history, and tradition and looked backward, there was already this new spirit:

After his retirement from Prussian state service, Otto von Manteuffel began his second career in agriculture in Drahnsdorf during the second half of his life. And this was in an agricultural management that was quite "pre-industrial" in its dimension.

In this forward-looking mood of the early founding years, the manor house and the adjacent stables were also built. The imposing cubature of the rooms and the serial arrangement of uniform windows were already inspired by the emerging industrial construction methods of the time.

The Church-Manor House-Station Axis

This opposing orientation in tradition and future within this transitional period had a counterpart in the position of other buildings relative to the manor house:

On the front side, the manor house was directly opposite an 11th-century fieldstone church. From this representative front side, its residents looked into the old, church-influenced past and origin.

2012. Large room at the front of the building. The window dismantling took place in 2017.

View from the restored window front of the "seminar room" towards the church. Due to the low DDR windows (see top left), the church spire had been obscured. After the renovation, the church spire once again "shines" with its gleaming copper ball and weather vane into the seminar room.

At the back, the train station could be seen from about two hundred meters away. This landmark of the (then) modern era was a necessary functional extension of the estate, as the station served to transport agricultural goods to Berlin.

Greetings card from the 19th century featuring the "castle," train station, post office, and rectory.

During the GDR era, these two cultural and identity-defining reference points were disrupted. The view of the church was obscured by the construction of a consumer store.

The sightline to the train station was blocked by panel buildings.

This, I suspect, was no coincidence.

Archaeology and the Restoration of the "Sound Body"

In this sense, much was still visible and palpable, which inspired and guided us to restore the place to what it may have once been imagined, felt, and realized. Because every time we restored something to its possible original state, we noticed that it felt more harmonious, that we had once again brought something to "resonate."

The rooms after the renovation in 2023. This process, which also aligns with the evolving uses, is likely never complete, and it's very probable that the rooms will look different in a few years.

Auch die Freilegung und die Verwendung der alten Materialien war wichtig. Die Holzdielen, der Kalkputz, die Lehmwände, die Türen in Leinölfarben, die Gardinen aus altem handgewebtem Leinen haben eine Wirkung auf die Atmosphäre.

2020 war der größte Teil des Rückbaus abgeschlossen: Die Freilegung vom Kratzputz, der Rückbau der Fensteröffnungen und die Wiederherstellung der alten Rundbögen.

Die Rundbögen wurden in historischen Klosterziegeln wieder aufgemauert.

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