10 DM Rent for a Bed in a Student Hall of Residence

Farewell to lignite-fired heating, low rents and shared rooms: after the fall of the Berlin Wall, things changed, including for Leipzig's students living in a hall of residence. Frank Kießling recalls the period of renovations that began in 1991.
Altes Wohnheimzimmer aus den 90er Jahren, Tarostraße Studentenwerk Leipzig
Photo: Tom Schulze / Leipzig

"We had a tough start in 1991. We were operating in a whole new situation at the time, involving new laws, new regulations and new ways of working." As head of department for general administration/maintenance/investments at the Leipzig Student Union at the time, Frank Kießling also had to deal with very practical issues. For example, after acquiring the buildings housing 12,500 students at 20 locations in the city - first, the multi-bed rooms had to be reduced to double rooms and 7,000 mailboxes had to be installed. Previously, the porters had received the mail and the students had picked it up at the gate.

Außenansicht vom alten Wohnheim in der Tarostraße, Studentenwerk Leipzig
Student hall of residence Tarostraße (photo: Tom Schulze / Leipzig)

With the re-foundation of the Studentenwerk Leipzig on 1 July 1991, the refurbishment (and renovation) of the dormitories began immediately. In July, construction and technical works began on the hall of residence in Tarostraße 12-18, on the hall of residence Jenny Marx in Goethestraße 6, in the older halls of residence, there was also the switch from lignite to oil-fired heating.

Frank Kießling, ehemaliger Geschäftsführer des Studentenwerkes Leipzig
Photo: Swen Reichhold

"From the very beginning, ecology and sustainability were also taken into account for the renovations. For example, for the installation of thermal insulation and the creation of new room structures," recalls Kießling. "The substance of the housing blocks was renewed, and front doors and elevators were replaced." Around DM 20 million was spent on this only in the second half of the year 1991. Work on building automation for the halls of residence also began immediately. This meant investments in regulating technology for heating, ventilation, hot water. The technical equipment was centralized and the janitors and the administration in Goethestraße were able to monitor it centrally via a computer screen.

In 1991, there were eight dormitory complexes with eight floors and eleven freestanding houses. During the period of transition, the rent was increased from 10 to 50 DM at the beginning of 1991 - under huge protests from the students. In the winter semester of 1991/92, the rent rose to 80 DM. Things calmed down as renovations progressed, leading to legitimate prices for the services offered.

It was not until 2000 that the dormitories were operating in a cost-covering manner. In 2004, the phase of renovation was finally completed when the hall of residence on Nürnberger Strasse was completed. The building, which students call "Nürni", was the last hall of residence to remain in its primary state. Thus, the Studentenwerk Leipzig was the first of the East German Studentenwerke to complete the renovation of its student dormitories after the German reunification. Notably, this meant the prefabricated GDR building fabric. The preservation of this building fabric remains an important task for the years to come.

Frank Kießling (born 1944 in Markranstädt), is an engineer for communications technology and holds a degree in economics. He worked, among other things, as a project engineer and head of operations technology Stadtmitte at the University of Leipzig. In 1991, he took over as head of the department General Administration/Maintenance/Investments at the Studentenwerk Leipzig. From 2001 to 2011, Kießling was managing director of the Studentenwerk Leipzig.

Eyewitness interview: Tobias Prüwer

More about the history of the Studentenwerk Leipzig