Back to the roots
Finally it seems that „Tempelhof“ has been lead to its real destination: Since 2009 the 282-hectare (697-acre) site now is loved again by all kinds of Berliner and they use it for the most amazing activities. The mainly Sunday strolls of former times now have changed into various activities like kite-bording, roller-skating, walking, jogging, chilling, dog-training, bird-breading, gardening, basketball, softball, Tai-chi, concerts, summer-raves are only few of them. The search of bright sunlight, fresh air and distant views is still the same!
The „Tempelhof“ really is a unique experience you should definitively discover – for everybody it means something different!
Some call it „The Mother of all Airports“ (parts from spiegel-online international, 04/25/2008)
Hardly any other capital in the world has had an airport located practically in the middle of the city. It takes all of 15 minutes to get by bicycle from Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport to the intersection of two of the city’s most important thoroughfares, Friedrichstrasse and Unter den Linden, and 20 minutes to the Brandenburg Gate and the monumental Reichstag, which houses the German parliament.
At first, Tempelhof was just a very large meadow on the southern edge of old Berlin. It was known as Tempelhof Field and became the site of military exercises for the Prussian army of Kaiser Wilhelm II. In 1890 Groups of decorated soldiers marched up and down Tempelhof, a parade ground for the army’s infantry and cavalry units.
In August 1909, the American aviation pioneer Orville Wright succeeded to remain in the air over Berlin for a full minute in his home-made, consumptive flying machine.
In 1926, after World War I, the first scheduled flight of Deutsche Luft Hansa took off from Tempelhof Field, bound for Zürich. Indeed, the airline that eventually became today’s German flag carrier Lufthansa was lifted from Tempelhof’s baptismal font. At this time Tempelhof already was an airport. Zeppelins were lifting off and the airport was already connected to Berlin’s subway network by 1927.
Berlin was booming and about to replace Paris as Europe’s key city. Faster, higher, farther — those were the buzzwords of the new age. The wording in a 1929 advertising brochure for the World Advertising Convention reflected the expressionistic style of the day: „Life, pulsating life, is moving at breakneck speeds in Berlin, the heart of the Reich! Four million people on the go, one-fifteenth of the German people in quickstep! And while everything down on the ground is hurrying and pushing its way through the city, the motor sings from the skies! What a splendid sight: Tempelhof Airport!“
The pulsating lifestyle came to an abrupt end in January 1933, when Hitler’s „brownshirts“ marched through the streets of Berlin. In 1935, the Führer became personally involved in the plans for a „world airport“ in his future capital and demanded that the new architecture be „eternal“ and „overwhelming“, even „crushing“ and, most of all, that it attest to the „greatness of our faith.“
From the roof of the airport’s enormous, semi-circular complex, 1,230 meters (4,035 feet) from one end to the other, Berlin’s sea of buildings seems as if it were set in the middle of a vast prairies. „The airport in Tempelhof unites the characteristics of an inland sea with the yearning for faraway places“ a delighted observer once said. Axel Schultes, the architect who designed the new Chancellery in the city’s Mitte district, even goes so far as to describe Tempelhof as an „icon of an airport.“
Two world wars and half a revolution in 1968, the „golden“ twenties, Hitler and the Holocaust, the wreckage of the postwar period, the city’s four-power occupying status imposed by the Allies and the legendary Berlin Airlift, when American „candy bombers“ brought food and supplies to the city during the Soviet blockade of West Berlin in 1948, the construction of the Berlin Wall, the Stars and Stripes and the Cold War….
You can still experience an excursion through the symmetrical complex, with its seemingly endless terminal. All of it was constructed in record time, only two years, under the direction of Ernst Sagebiel. The results were impressive: surprisingly clean lines, with the narrow windows in the façade of the main building creating a rhythmic, cascade-like effect, combined with a touch of southern flair resulting from the generous use of shell limestone. It was a Teutonic bastion with Art Deco elements.
Nobody knows what will happen to Tempelhof in futuretime. The International Garden Exhibition is planned in 2017, they want to build several town-houses, playgrounds, climbing-hills and even lakes… come and see what Tempelhof is now, before it is too late.
Stay curious and discover Tempelhof and Berlin – see you soon
Uschi & Rainer