“Archive of the Future” - the major building development project

An interview with Stefan MehI about the current state of affairs.

What’s the underlying idea behind the name “Archive of the Future,” what sort of challenges does this extraordinary building project pose and are there specific ideas for the future already in motion? Stefan Mehl, Managing Director of the development company R+G Shareholding-GmbH in Lichtenfels, describes the current state of affairs and offers information on the status of this major project, located in the heart of the city.

For many “Archive of the Future” remains an abstract term. And yet the building’s progress is under scrutiny every day. After all, there’s almost no way around it when you’re in the city centre. Most people are quite conscious of the fact that there’s a very special project taking shape here, just beside city hall. But when people talk about it, they often don’t mention it directly. Instead, they’ll talk about “the building that’s going up on market square.” This is why we decided to speak to the building developer about the current situation. Stefan Mehl represents R+G Shareholding GmbH Lichtenfels, whose two other managing directors Günter and Robert Hofmann were the initiators of the “Archive of the Future.”

– Mr Mehl, how are things progressing with your major development project on market square?

Stefan Mehl: We’ve just started working on the interior of the basement. Everything’s going according to plan, as far as that can be said of a building project. There are always minor issues, of course, but nothing that would cause any serious delays. In a few weeks we’ll hopefully be able to continue with the profiles for the glass installation. We’ve changed the original building plan by turning the terrace on the first floor into office space. The city’s building committee had no objections. And approval for the new building permit just arrived from the district administration in the post.

– A supplementary approval, so to speak?

Yes, exactly. It’s quite normal to make changes to a building after it has been built. We did it formally, by the book, and had it officially approved.

– In your opinion, have the people of Lichtenfels warmed to the idea of this project or has their interest let up a little?

In my experience interest here has remained constantly high. We continually get comments and feedback in response to our instagram posts from people who ask why we’re now doing certain things one way and not another. People genuinely want to know.
There are also quite a number of construction site observers who pay their respects every day (laughs). We continue to provide information in our showroom next to the building site, and on our website, as well as in the magazine publications we’ve had printed just for that purpose.

– Do you think by now the majority of people are able to relate to the term “Archive of the Future?”

That would certainly be nice! Of course it’s a term people have already heard in Lichtenfels, but I don't think most people can pin a concrete meaning to it yet. It’s something that needs explaining.

– And how would you explain it?

The idea behind the name relates to our intention to showcase future developments and to draw attention to fresh new orientations still in their infancy, to highlight the direction in which things are shifting, and then to document and archive these ideas. Because, not everything that seems to be a fantastic idea for the future right now will actually become one in reality. Hence the name. In ten or twenty years, one will be able to look at these visionary concepts and contemplate what people actually thought the future would look like way back in 2020.

– Actually a fascinating story and, especially in these corona times, perhaps a project that people can be motivated to interact with in ways other than through traditional face-to-face events...

I also think that, above all, we want to spark people’s curiosity about what's coming. Especially right now, people could use a bit of encouragement and some upbeat, positive news regarding the kinds of exciting, novel things that could well occur in the future.
For example, we’re currently considering how we can present the showroom exhibit area digitally. Because as it stands we can only assume that the present situation won’t be changing any time soon. Even if a vaccine does come along next year, we can’t say how things will develop, or whether it might not, as a rule, just make sense to provide for more online availability. This would obviously alter the concept of the entire thing.

– Is there an ultimate timeline for the project as a whole?

The building should be ready for occupancy by autumn next year. Everyone, including the architect, still feels that we’ll be able to keep to our schedule. I think we'll manage, but I'm a bit sceptical about the trees (editor's note: stylized willows made of metal). They’ve turned out to be a lot more work than we originally thought they’d be.

– Who’s going to make these trees?

A really fantastic company in Austria that has a lot of experience in metal construction and has already done something of this nature. We’ve been there to see them twice already. It was necessary to find someone who was willing to take on a project that had never been tried before and essentially had to be developed from scratch.

– Are there any photos of prototypes yet?

No, not yet. Right now we're busy clarifying the final details of the structural analysis. It really doesn't make any sense to build a model beforehand. Hopefully we’ll be there by December.

– What actually happened to the archaeological finds that were discovered during excavation?

They’ve been put in a safe place of course.

– From among the finds, what was your personal highlight?

Without a doubt the pottery vessel, which archaeologists believe probably contained something like a devotional offering, and was deliberately buried within the much older structure. What’s special about it is that for one, it’s very well preserved, but above all, it has a lid.

– Where is it now?

It’s still being analysed and restored by the State Office for the Preservation of Historical Monuments. At some point we want to put it on display here.

Ramona Popp conducted the interview. It was published at on 5 November 2020.