Wir Bauen Zukunft: learning from a community with 3 kinds of showers

Do I want to live a regular, somewhat boring life, or an interesting life? Can I put myself in a greater-than-life service, or do I learn to better care for myself before I care for the world? These questions have been lingering for years, and became more profound after I moved in with my co-workers into The Reef Brussels, edgeryders first home base.

I just spent a few good days near Nieklitz (Germany) in a gathering organized by Open State, the professional camp builders who built POC21 and Refugee Open Cities. The camp, funded by Advocate Europe, offered a rare occasion to 30 something activists to slow down and reflect on our work; with yoga, meditation, ecstatic dance intermissions (sic!), and no hard commitment to produce an artefact by the end. One could wander and ponder about whether pairing people with radically different political worldviews changes their civic behavior, but also chat about good apps for practicing mindfulness (I hear it’s Headspace).

Of 40 people around the camp, about half of us were “participants”, while the other half were organisers and hosts, an extensive team affiliated to Open State and the place.

It was the Place which really made my camp experience. With scarce Internet and mobile signal, vague appearances of machines, we found ourselves in a nature park with a history, at a two-hour train ride en route from Berlin to Hamburg. Wir Bauen Zukunft (translates We Build Future) aka “the Nieklitz crew” is a collective that in the beginning of 2016 bought 18 hectares of land with a loan from a generous private person. This was previously a biology park, a multi million euro technical project of a local architect in the late 90s which failed to bring in enough visitors or people to fill spacious workshops. The ensemble had severely deprecated due to lack of maintenance and use. Since 2016, the Nieklitz crew rebuilt most of it, with a lot of attention for craft and design. It is quite an experience to walk between The Hive main hall and kitchen, the Scent House and House of Flowers, all equipped with a few dozen beds, toilets, indoor and outdoor shower(s); or to walk the green paths between large workshops and storage spaces, old trailers, camping and camp fire spots. See it for yourself:

The Hive is the hq, with event space, kitchen/dining area and living quarters too

Main hall and dining area

The Flower House

The Scent House

The outdoor shower (CC-BY-SA - Open State)

It is my understanding that the group works for Earth sustainability, with a mission of co-working in nature (the lack of working Internet was temporary). They partially use geotermal energy (underground pipes for heating); research water efficient biogas stoves (to work through methanization); plan an upcoming earthship; organise renovation and building camps on the land. All these build up a sustainable space, with awareness that “everything we produce we need to sell”, as someone said to me. All would then call for how-to innovation workshops, for others to learn how to do it. They also host organisations/ events to make temporary use of the space, and encourage deeper exchange: permaculture meetings would teach everyone new practices, while experimenting on the Nieklitz land. Like most skilled communities I have seen, the boundaries between those who host and those who cross their path are purposefully blurred.

It also reflects in the group’s structure. Formally, it is a cooperative (in German the legal term is genossenschaft) where members buy-in an amount of 5K to co-own the property. There are 18-20 of them, with many active supporters - Open State itself has contributed large share of the camp funding to equip the space for future uses. About 10 people also live in the space, putting their time and skills into servicing it, but needing to make ends meet in the real world still.

I asked everyone I got the chance about their involvement and how the community develops. The points below are valuable takeaways for me and hopefully for edgeryders OpenVillage in-the-making:

1. Reaching out to fitting partners in a strategic way. Securing the resources to get started involved 3 questions: What’s the topic? Who’s around to partner up with? Where does the money come from? It could be that the OpenVillage solves 2) and 3) by being hosted temporarily in a community whose values are aligned, which has the space for us: could be an industrial park, an eco-village, a farmland and so on.

2. Time set aside for planning, group structuring and reflection. The core group had known each other for about 3 years prior and intersected in various projects. The cooperative model looks promising because in it, members share clear rights, but they also share the responsibility in a way that doesn’t break the structure when someone drops out. Everyone participates in weekly meetings and they apply sociocracy 3.0 to all decision making. Reportedly, it is not easy, but the collective understands that it’s a process and gets help when needed (professional coaches).

3. A healthy mix of working, living, and the space in between In the Nieklitz group, I found a surprising combination of brain meets the heart meets the hands. It is not a hackerspace with living quarters, nor is it a hippie commune. Or if it is any of them, it escaped me, as I was talking to such diverse people - designers, artists, cooks, planners and highly skilled builders. The space reflects that: as part of the package one can try three different kinds of showers – the inside shower, the outside shower, and the love shower :slight_smile:

My own questions about making a life for oneself lingered. It seemed that the deep personal investment of people is not only in making a project happen. Someone I spoke to framed it as having a chance to live the lives we want, outside the oppression experienced in the city. Wir Bauen Zukunft and their extended loving arms like Open State are building future, in much needed radical, but gentle ways. Chapeau!

Thank you so much Anja, Lale, Laurent, Kyra, Felix, Kari, Cristoph, Ele and everyone for the time we spent together. I look forward to meeting again!


Dear Noemi!

Thank you so much for writing up this amazing article! And thanks in particular for all the flowers :wink: I know I can speak for the entire Wir bauen Zukunft Team, that we are super happy you and your fellow participants had such an inspiring and enjoyable time on our project site. It was a real pleasure to host you!

To speak for myself, I was overwhelmed by the high density of awe-inspiring, like-minded and congenial people on site. That was a whole 'nother level :slight_smile: I had so many great conversations that sparked new ideas and gave me different insight to quite a variety of different topics. Time wasn’t enough to connect to everyone who attended, however every single contact was rocking my sweet socks :slight_smile: I cannot remember having a longer conversation with you, but now reading your kind words and about OpenVillage and Egderyders I feel I missed out.

I feel quite tempted to stop by for the OpenVillage festival in Brussels. From what I got of your website and the short video clips, it’s a gathering of similarly switched on people as during the Open State of Politics Camp. Dealing with key questions our modern societies and economies are up against. The role of community is becoming more and more important for moving on from a mainly individualistically shaped society. A few days ago I watched the BBC Doco “The age of self” and was struck again by how important our work here in Nieklitz and in all the other communities and projects around the world is. Long story short: I wanna come and would like to contribute with some input or workshop. I have a solid background in natural building, especially in building Earthships and could give an input on Earthship technology, the global movement and about social dynamics/personal growth potential in practical building workshops. I also could give an input on the Wir bauen Zukunft project, our approach to develop a project community and what we’ve learned so far. Another option could be to run a little Case Clinic workshop, a format I’ve learned during a U-Lab course which trains people in active listening.

Keep up the good work!!!

Much love


Hi @emsone, you’re officially the first in the Nieklitz crowd to jump on this openvillage ship…

My impression is also that there is resonance with your crowd - and anyway edgeryders operates at the network level rather than a well defined group, so many people around here run community initiatives themselves. You should meet @bernard ! His crowd in Ireland also experiment with housing options ie tiny houses and ways of rewiring: among many, they do retreats at a castle near Galway, and mixing ecological sustainability thinking with the arts and health practices. Bernard is running a session on the last day of the festival.

Here’s to kinship <3

Great article @noemi, Nieklitz sounds amazing. So many people are now edging towards a more earth-savy lifestyle. :slight_smile: @emsone me , would be great if you or someone from Nieklitz could make it to the festival, we could learn loads from you!

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@bernard i’ll be there :wink: looking forward to meting you! much love

Hi Henry and welcome to Edgeryders :slight_smile:

Daniel Kruse mentioned this project during a discussion at UDK (if I am not mistaken). So nice to see that this bear fruit, congratulations! Noemi thanks for much for taking the time to share what your learned<3

Looking forward to meeting you!

hey @emsone
a late welcome from my side.
It’s amazing to read about what you guys are doing. wanted to know more from you specially about applying the sociocracy model, what challenges did your group face, how do you think this can work within larger groups.
I am interested in knowing more about your governance model in practice, I am trying to apply sociocracy with my group in Egypt, mainly as a governance model we are not living together ( till now )

not sure if you are connected to this experiment days cohousing network, there are different cooperatives and intentional communities in Germany, would be nice to exchange knowledge in Case you are not connected. ( will be happy to connect you together )

also pinging @amiridina @Heba @Yosser @m_tantawy , check this out as an existing model and let’s see how we can learn in the openvillage in the southern Mediterranean region.

hope to see you soon in Brussels.

greetings from Cairo.


Thank you for sharing this with us! such a beautful space and spirit, serioulsy thank you for sharing that with us! and as @Hazem saidwe can lear a lot from this to develop our spaces in the MENA region …

I am guessing the diversity of the people in there is what keeps the space unique and going, you know what is the problem in most of the MENA region countries? is that at some point it was a mess and having different people in one room would only cause a lot of troubles… however now things are getting better, at least for Tunisia

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The “love shower” being one stall with two shower heads?

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Nope, just a group wave of hugs as appreciation, encouragement and so on.

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Ah…the metaphorical shower.

Hi @emsone was super meeting you. I’m in Berlin November 27-29 for something at Progressive Zentrum. Will you be around? Would be good to hang out :slight_smile:

Hey Love! Enjoyed my talks with you a lot during OpenVillage Festival. Most probably will be in Berlin during these days. Would love to catch up! You have a place to stay?

Hey, great! The organisers are sorting out a hotel - so that’s settled. Drop me a line with your number so I can text you mine? nadia@edgeryders.eu