Project Gunsleben - General Design - Dreaming phase

Posted on di 10 juli 2018 in surveys

This is the place we gather information about the project. See the design overview for the big picture.

Loes and Brand are hereafter referred to as the parents.


map of the site

Map created from satellite image, openstreetmap and provided sketch. Download and open the file in a vector editor like Inkscape to see and play with the different layers.

Meta data:

  • Timestamp: 2018-07-01
  • Location: Terra, Europe, Germany, Saksen-Anhalt, Börde, Westliche Börde, Am Großen Bruch, Gunsleben, Hauptstraße 22
  • Latitude / longitude: 52.04926N / 11.03009E
  • Height: 89 m
  • Population of Gunsleben: 365 (1993)
  • Part of Am Großen Bruch since: 2014-07-01
  • Postal code: 39393
  • Telephone prefix: 039401
  • Climate: Central Europe




From Wikipedia:

Most of Germany has a temperate seasonal climate dominated by humid westerly winds. The country is situated in between the oceanic Western European and the continental Eastern European climate. The climate is moderated by the North Atlantic Drift, the northern extension of the Gulf Stream. This warmer water affects the areas bordering the North Sea; consequently in the northwest and the north the climate is oceanic. Germany gets an average of 789 mm of precipitation per year; there is no consistent dry season. Winters are cool and summers tend to be warm: temperatures can exceed 30 °C.

The east has a more continental climate: winters can be very cold and summers very warm, and longer dry periods can occur. Central and southern Germany are transition regions which vary from moderately oceanic to continental. In addition to the maritime and continental climates that predominate over most of the country, the Alpine regions in the extreme south and, to a lesser degree, some areas of the Central German Uplands have a mountain climate, with lower temperatures and more precipitation.

Though the German climate is rarely extreme, there are occasional spikes of cold or heat. Winter temperatures can sometimes drop to two-digit negative temperatures for a few days in a row. Conversely, summer can see periods of very high temperatures for a week or two. The recorded extremes are a maximum of 40.3 °C (July 2015, in Kitzingen), and a minimum of -37.8 °C (February 1929, in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm).


From Wikipedia:

The territory of Germany can be subdivided into two ecoregions: European-Mediterranean montane mixed forests and Northeast-Atlantic shelf marine. As of 2008 the majority of Germany is covered by either arable land (34%) or forest and woodland (30.1%); only 13.4% of the area consists of permanent pastures, 11.8% is covered by settlements and streets.

The golden eagle is the national bird of Germany.

Plants and animals include those generally common to Central Europe. Beeches, oaks, and other deciduous trees constitute one-third of the forests; conifers are increasing as a result of reforestation. Spruce and fir trees predominate in the upper mountains, while pine and larch are found in sandy soil. There are many species of ferns, flowers, fungi, and mosses. Wild animals include roe deer, wild boar, mouflon (a subspecies of wild sheep), fox, badger, hare, and small numbers of the Eurasian beaver. The blue cornflower was once a German national symbol.


From Wikipedia DE:

1112 wurde der Ort erstmals urkundlich erwähnt. 1141 wurde eine Kirche gebaut. 1224 gelangte ein Hof in Gunsleben mit zugehörigem Land aus dem Erbbesitz der Adelheid von Loccum-Hallermund an die Grafen von Dassel. Nachdem diese den Hof an den mit ihnen verwandten Heinrich von Regenstein übergeben hatten, schenkte der Regensteiner Graf im Jahr 1298 den Hof dem Kloster Hamersleben. 1311 belehnte der Hildesheimer Bischof Heinrich II. Ludolf von Warberg mit 6 Hufen in Gunsleben. Das Domkapitel des Halberstädter Doms besaß in Gunsleben Zehntrechte. 1314 veranlassten die Brüder von Alvensleben, dass das Domkapitel diese Rechte dem Kloster S. Marie überließ. Seit spätestens 1453 war das Geschlecht derer von Asseburg hier begütert. An einem im 18. Jahrhundert errichteten Gutshaus ist das Asseburger Wappen als Relief erhalten. Daneben befindet sich das Wappen derer von Alvensleben als Zeugnis einer Hochzeit des damaligen Gutsbesitzers Christoph Werner von Asseburg mit Catharina Helena von Alvensleben, die später in das Haus Ditfurth einheiratete. Am 30. September 1928 wurde der Gutsbezirk Gunsleben mit der Landgemeinde Gunsleben vereinigt.

Die Gemeinde Gunsleben war Mitglied in der Verwaltungsgemeinschaft Hamersleben. Durch den freiwilligen Zusammenschluss der Gemeinden Gunsleben, Hamersleben und Neuwegersleben entstand am 1. Juli 2004 die neue Gemeinde Am Großen Bruch, dadurch verlor Gunsleben seine politische Selbstständigkeit.


Der Bahnhof Gunsleben lag an der Bahnstrecke Wolfenbüttel–Oschersleben. Die Strecke wurde nach der deutschen Teilung zwischen Gunsleben und Jerxheim in Niedersachsen unterbrochen. 1992 wurde auch der Verkehr zwischen Gunsleben und Oschersleben eingestellt und die Strecke später stillgelegt und abgebaut. Das Bahnhofsgebäude im Gunsleben ist erhalten geblieben und steht unter Denkmalschutz.



  • SV Gunsleben 1960
  • Die Freiwillige Feuerwehr Gunsleben sorgt seit ihrer Gründung im Jahr 1922 für den abwehrenden Brandschutz und die allgemeine Hilfe.

Client interview

  • feelings about current arrangements
    • overall layout
      • at the moment all effort went into conservation
      • remark from Brand: when working I try to never have to return to the same spot (in short: the place is huge)
    • access
      • Loes prefers single access from road as it makes it easier to observe visitors, wanted and unwanted
    • structures
      • main house (#1)
        • basement for food, coal, wood and tool storage
        • ground floor for general usage
        • 1/2 of first floor for the parents
        • 1/2 of first floor for Gerbrand and his family
        • room in attic for sister
      • hay and tool barn (#2): no plans
      • cow barn (#3): maybe to keep cows again or chickens
      • garage (#4): at the moment storage for fire truck
      • shed (#5): maybe turn into village pub
      • shed (#6)
        • storage for garden tools
        • table saw
        • room for sister
    • trees & plants
      • Brand has a list of plants they tried that did not work out
      • there are many mirabel and plum trees on the property
      • fruit harvest is too abundant for the parents
      • the parents are planting oaks, ginko, apple
    • maintenance
      • almost all maintenance falls on the shoulders of the parents
      • unforseen calamities also call on Gerbrand
      • the place is too big for upkeep by two people
  • needs & wants
    • priorities
      • make the project cashflow positive
      • house is priority, land secondary
      • priorities often also dictated by external events
      • current building priorities:
        • replace electricity wiring
        • fix construction error in water mains
        • reconstruct chimneys
        • work on woodstoves
        • fix and insulate roof
        • fix hay barn (#2)
          • replace timber floor
          • fix exterior
          • fix roof and gutter
      • recurring priority is removal of weeds between stones
    • wants
      • Loes: spend time with loved ones: children and grandchildren
      • Brand: unknown
      • Gerbrand:
        • create a safe place
        • create a family foundation
        • live there upon retirement
      • sisters: unknown
  • values & vision
    • no issue with privacy
    • house is a fallback option for the family in case of trouble in the Netherlands
    • pantry is able to provide over a year of nutrition for two people
    • Loes likes the silence and the activity of bees and other insects in the garden
    • main focus is on the family, there are no plans to grow a community
  • life style
    • time on site
      • the parents are on site about 49% of the time, the rest is spent in Amerongen in the Netherlands
    • income
      • AOW of Brand with additional allowance: € 768.71 netto per month [1]
      • having a farmer mow the field to make hay: € 200 per year
      • rent out as a group accomodation: € 500 per group
      • bartering with neighbors and villagers for use of their machines
      • rent out a room for BnB: € 20 per night, € 2.50 breakfast, € 5 dinner [2]
      • turn field into camp site: €20 per night
      • idea: sell surplus food on the side of the street
      • idea: rent out fire truck for roof access
      • idea: start a local grocery shop
      • idea: start a local pub
      • idea: sell repaired stuff on eBay Kleinanzeige
    • occupation
      • Brand is pensioner
      • Loes is house wife
      • Gerbrand works as Chief Digital Officer
    • events
      • in winter temperatures drop to -15 to -20°C
      • the weather is dryer than expected
      • the weather is colder than expected
    • visitors
      • Gerbrand comes for about 6 weeks per year
      • the other siblings and their families come for at most 2 weeks per year, for vacation only
    • food growing
      • veg. plot on site
      • fruit trees on site
      • walnut trees on site
    • eating
      • what they grow and preserve in Gunsleben
      • what they grow and preserve in Amerongen
      • Saturday afternoon shopping in the supermarket (50% off veg, 30% off meat)
      • foraging wild plants on site
      • occasional dumpster diving
      • harvesting trees on the sides of the road
    • transport
      • small van with trailer
      • jeep
      • bicycles
      • walking
      • fire truck
  • limiting factors
    • physical
      • both parents are in good health
      • Loes is 60+ years
      • Brand is 70+ years
    • emotional
      • Loes misses hugs from children and grandchildren
      • Brand misses affection
      • Loes misses words of appreciation from husband and villagers
    • mental
      • Loes expressed some irritation with villagers: they want to know everything about you but are very guarded in what they tell you about themselves
      • Loes likes working in the garden. It's varied: pulling weeds, planting and harvesting
      • the parents control of German language is limited leading to misunderstandings and imposing a cultural barrier
    • resources
      • immediate support comes from neighbor across the street
      • Gerbrand will come to help with emergency repairs
      • the parents know several people who can help them complete various tasks
  • personal resources
    • vision
      • Gerbrand's dream:
        • find the inspiration to embrace the dream on this property
        • contribute to bring change by using this property as a shining example
      • educate farmers around Gunsleben about permaculture
      • attract nature lovers to spend time on site: campers, survivalists, permaculturists, children
    • network
      • skilled labor available for pay
      • villagers with machines
      • neighbor thats keep an eye on the house in the parents absence
      • occasional visits by friends
    • skills
      • Brand takes on most jobs related to the building
      • Loes takes care of the garden
  • financial budget
    • fixed expenses: € 2000 per year
    • parents contribute 50% of expenses
    • Gerbrand takes care of the other half
    • gas money for parents: 8 * € 75 = € 600
    • money is limited
  • site related
    • neighbors
      • pig farmer across the street
      • other neighbor only greets
      • 20% of houses in Gunsleben are abandoned
    • duration of stay
      • site is inhabited half the time
    • rights of way
      • none mentioned
    • legal
    • who owns what
      • parents: 50% of certificates
      • Gerbrand: 50% of certificates
      • future aim
        • redistribute certificates among other siblings
        • (even further in the future) also distribute certificates outside the family
    • issues like theft, vandalism
      • in winter 2013 someone broke in through the basement
      • the broken window led to the freezing and later rupturing of the water mains
      • the thieves stole some trinkets from the house and a mower
      • the thieves heavily damaged locked doors in the house
  • also site related
    • monument status
      • everything viewed from the street is under Denkmahlschutz
      • on the other side of the street whole houses fall under protection
  • time scale
    • this project can potentially span multiple generations
    • however, without succession the project will fail
    • at present, no one seems interested in taking over responsibility from the parents
  • any other questions?

to keep the allowance

  • they need to live in the Netherlands or in a country that has an agreement with the Netherlands about the monitoring of benefits. Germany is such a country
  • Loes can earn no more than € 1400 bruto per month
[2]first bookings are from people passing though to Eastern Europe

Financial overview and budget

Arno asked Gerbrand for a detailed financial report for the last ten years of the project. We have never received this information.

9 ways of observing

  • I wonder...
    • what service the villagers most miss
    • how to make money with the property
  • Observe energy
    • Humans
      • Loes is 60+, Brand is 70+
      • Loes and Brand are there 6 months/year. They have trouble maintaining the place as is
      • Gerbrand and family are there 6 weeks/year
      • other 2 sisters are there max. 2 weeks/year, mostly for vacation
      • focus is (or should be) on house, land is secondary
      • extra help available for money
      • exchange of labor and tools with neighbors and villagers
    • Energy
      • electricity from mains (expensive!)
      • gas in bottles from unknown sources
      • coal from unknown sources
      • wood from local sources (expensive!)
      • petrol from gas station
      • food from garden
      • food from supermarket (expensive!)
      • stay under 2000W (or 48 kWh/person-day)
  • Observe flow
    • water
      • annual rainfall Schöningen: 900mm
    • sunshine
    • wind
    • nutrients / soil
    • energy / materials / fuels / money: see Flow of Capital
    • time
    • humans
    • vehicles
  • Observe communities
    • the parents
    • Gerbrand, wife and children
    • the parents' extended family
    • direct neighbors in Gunsleben
    • villagers of Gunsleben
    • RnP PDC participants
    • neighboring villages: Wackersleben, Aderstedt
    • Motorsport Arena Oschersleben
    • closest supermarket
      • Ausleben: NP-Markt
      • Oschersleben (Bode): PENNY-Markt Discounter
      • Huy: Nah und Gut Meier, EDEKA
      • Hötensleben: ALDI, EDEKA, NP-Markt, Netto Marken-Discount
    • closest bigger cities
      • Oschersleben
      • Schöningen
      • Helmsted
      • Braunsweig / Magdeburg
      • Berlin
    • closest public transport hub
      • Oschersleben (bus, train)
      • Schöningen (bus)
      • Helmsted (bus, train)
    • closest camping sites
      • Camping am See in Halberstadt
      • Campingplatz Nord-Elm in Räbke
      • 14 other camping sites mostly concentrated in and around Nationalpark Harz
  • Observe patterns
    • enclosed square: mostly protected from all sides
    • location is at the top of a small hill
  • Observe edge
    • edges of the property
      • to the north: owned by farmer
      • to the south: main street of Gunsleben
      • to the west: owned by neighbor
      • to the east: owned by neighbor
    • village limits
    • near former border of East and West Germany
    • how far is the edge to profitability?
  • Observe limits
    • money
    • time on site
    • material resources
    • the size of the property too big for the available manpower
    • laws and regulations (e.g. Denkmalschutz)
    • Gerbrand's other commitments to his family and his work
    • interest from other family members to become involved in the project
    • emotional, wanting to spend more time with family not on site
    • security in winter when no one is around
    • water in summer
    • heating energy in winter
    • language barrier
  • Observe from stillness
    • site is in the middle of an agricultural desert
    • 15km away in Schöningen is an open air lignite mine
    • I heard many different birds when I was camping there in July
    • I saw many different insects
    • there is only occasional traffic in the main street
    • the place feels empty and deserted
  • Observe past & future
    • Past
      • 1900 house constructed by sugar beet farmer
      • 1944 region became part of DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik / East Germany) under Russian influence
      • 1950 owner fled to BRD (Bundesrepublik Deutschland / West Germany), house became headquarters of LPG (Landwirtschaftliche Produktionsgenossenschaft)
      • 1980 Treuhand sold property to Dutch person
      • ? housed a small supermarket and a kindergarten
      • 2008 bought by Gerbrand
      • ? bought neighboring property, previously in use as Gemeindewurf
    • Future

Flow Survey

Flow of Capital

Here we combine two different tools: 9 forms of capital with flow survey.

  • Where does it come from?
    • energy capital
      • wood from nearby sellers
      • petrol from petrol station
      • gas in canisters
      • coal in basement
      • food in veg plot
      • electricity from mains
    • living capital
      • plants grown from seed
      • plants purchased from nursery
      • geese
      • Moppie, the dog
      • humans on site
      • living beings coming on site (insects, bugs, birds, etc.)
    • material capital
      • tools and machines from marktplaats / eBay kleinanzeige
      • building materials also from online markets
    • financial capital
      • parents contribute 50% of financial expenses: € 4500 per year (estimate)
      • Gerbrand takes care of the other half: € 4500 per year (estimate)
    • experiental captial
      • parents contribute 6 months of their time
      • Gerbrand contributes 6 weeks of his time
      • hired help from a local apprentice
      • Brand has hands on knowledge on building and machine maintenance
      • Loes has hands on knowledge on food growing and preservation
    • intellectual capital
      • Rakesh providing a PDC design course
    • cultural captial
      • history of the site from documents in the attic
      • fruit trees on site
      • Denkmahlschutz of the front of the building
      • the big shed as an example a half-timbered building
      • the main house as an example of 1900's building construction
    • community capital
      • occasional help available from neighbors and friends
    • spiritual captial
      • parents live a simple, satisfying life

What does it bring with it?

  • it makes conservation of the buildings possible

What is the effect on my system?

  • Gerbrand needs to work a regular job
  • parents are the only ones that have the time to take care of the property. When parents are no longer able to, the buildings will inevitable deteriorate
  • parents are somewhat embedded in Gunsleben
  • storage spaces required for wood, coal, gas canisters

What does it take with it?

  • ability to undertake renovations
  • little time spent with loved ones

Where does it leave from?

  • energy capital
    • heat warming the air
    • lighting the rooms of the house
    • heat cooking the food
    • transport humans and objects across distances
    • power machines for lifting, pumping, milling, sawing
    • power people to live and to do work
    • heat leaving the intended area due to poor weather proofing and insulation
  • living capital
    • eaten
    • given away to neighbors and family
    • conserved for later
    • living beings leaving to elsewhere
    • discarded as waste via municipal waste collection
  • material capital
    • wear and tear on tools, machines and building
    • sold on marktplaats or eBay kleinanzeige
    • used to repair buildings or machines
    • discarded as waste via municipal waste collection
  • financial capital
    • total costs per year: € 9000 (estimated)
      • fixed expenses: € 1000 per year
      • gas money for parents: 8 * € 75 = € 600
      • materials to repair buildings: unknown
      • hired help: unknown
  • experiental capital
    • Gerbrand learns hands on
    • Gerbrand's children experience living on a farm
    • PDC participants learn hands on
  • intellectual capital
    • PDC participants leave with new knowledge to spread
    • Gerbrand and parents have a design to work from
  • cultural capital
    • the designs from the PDC participants
  • community capital
    • PDC participants experience building and maintaining a community, if only for a short while
    • the parents provide neighbors with food, food scraps and gossip
    • the site provides a gathering place for Gerbrand's extended family
  • spiritual capital
    • showing a way to live simply


This is an extremely challenging project given all the limitations identified. We have gained a deep respect for Brand and Loes for working so tirelessly on this project. We commend Gerbrand for his tenacity to keep this project alive.

See the main document for a reflection on the process and lessons learned.