In the wake of the tragic shooting of nine members of the congregation of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on 17 June 2015, the community of Haldensleben in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, makes a gesture of solidarity with its sister-city in the United States.
A new monument which has been worked on over the past two years by students of the American College of the Building Arts (ACBA) in the parkland between Haldensleben and Hundisburg will be named the Charleston Place.
Many people with family and work ties to Charleston live in Hundisburg, Haldensleben and the surrounding towns and cities. IFA Rotorion, which has a large plant in Charleston, is just one example.
In addition, since 2011, students of the American College of the Building Arts (ACBA) in Charleston, South Carolina, have been spending their summers in Hundisburg-Haldensleben as part of Project CHARME, supporting the 20-year renovation of Schloss Hundisburg and the surrounding parkland.
The random-rubble masonry construction that ACBA students have been working on since 2014 is already taking firm shape. It is on the site of an old “ruin folly”, a wall that was intentionally left in a ruined state in the mid-nineteenth century, to imitate the ruins of antiquity, as was the fashion at that time. The wall was originally part of a glasshouse built by the then-owner of the Schloss and parkland, Johann Gottlob Nathusius. His intention was to grow in the glasshouse an example of every known plant species on the entire planet. A particular source of specimens was America, a country he admired enormously for its political and social values.
This folly was later called the “Mackensenburg“ but the new construction will bear little resemblance to its predecessor,
Like Schloss Hundisburg, Charleston is an architectural gem which was almost entirely destroyed - in Charleston’s case, in the American Civil War and then again through earthquake and fire and through Hurricane Hugo in 1989 - but which rose again to become a site of great beauty.
Those of us who know Charleston well, recognize that this is a city which works constantly to heal the wounds of the past, including slavery and racial segregation, and secure a bright future. Horrific events like the killings at Emanuel AME do not divide the city, they are an opportunity for the community to unite more resolutely than ever.
We in Germany recognize that no society is perfect. Every community has scars from the past to deal with. Here in Haldensleben, we continue to wrestle with the ghosts of Nazism and Communism and the struggle to adapt to the reunification of Germany in 1990. Like Charleston, our region has risen from ruins many times over.
By naming the folly Charleston Place, we:
- thank the people of Charleston, South Carolina for their contribution to the beautification of our landscape
- offer the community of Haldensleben a spot in which they can contemplate their relationship with the outside world, just as Johann Gottlob Nathusius did when he tried to show the entire planet’s flora in his gardens,
- acknowledge, through the ruined appearance of the folly, that every society undergoes processes of change, renewal and rebirth and that perfection is unattainable, and
- signify our love and support for the people of Charleston, South Carolina in this moment of tragedy.
Photo of the current status of the project. The structure will be close to finished by mid-July 2015.
Contributed by Caroline von Nathusius