Flughafen Tempelhof

Berlin’s Tempelhof Flughafen (Tempelhof Airport) – Berlin’s inner-city commercial airport will probably remain operational until October 2008. After years of debate Berliners voted in a referendum held in Berlin, on April 27, 2008 to finally close down this historic airfield. Whatever happens next, Tempelhof will remain the effective monument to the Berlin Airlift of 1948-1949.

In June 1948 the Soviet Union made an attempt to take control of the whole of Berlin by cutting off surface rail and street access to and from the western part of the city. If successful this action would have resulted in effectively starving out over 2 million Berliners of food supplies. The US Truman administration’s reaction to the Blockade was to provide a daily airlift by the Allies to ensure that food and supplies continued to reach Berliners living in the western Sector. More than 5,000 tons of supplies were delivered daily. The “Airbridge” lasted until September 1949 when the Soviet government finally lifted the blockade. Popular stories about “raisin-bombers” and the ‘Chocolate Pilot’ are still told to children today.

For many Berliners, especially the older generation, Tempelhof remains a symbol of freedom and belongs to Berlin as much as the Brandenburg Gate. Even Germany’s conservative Chancellor, Angela Merkel, pointed out that “to many people and me personally this airport with the Airlift Memorial is a symbol of the city’s history”.

Berlin’s Mayor Klaus Wowereit from the opposing SDP believes instead that it is the new BBI (Berlin-Brandenburg International) Airport which will create the much needed 40,000 jobs for Berlin. It is due to open for business in 2011.

Tempelhof also has a significant place in aviation history. Flights have been taking off from here since the early 20th century. Aviation pioneer Orville Wright gave a flight demonstration here in 1909. Its history as a commercial airport dates back to 1923 with Lufthansa located headquarters here since 1926.

The airport was built by the National Socialists between 1936 and 1941 by Ernst Sagebiel, in typical Nazi monumental style, complete with carved eagles at the entrance and a roof constructed to hold an audience of 100,000 people watching military parades and air shows. Sagebiel was listed twice in the Guinness Book of Records for his architectural feats which included the Former Air Ministry as the largest office building in Europe. Tempelhof was designed to become the largest air travel terminal of its day, replacing the building that had stood on this site since 1923.

A visit to the Tempelhof complex can be accessed via Platz der Luftbrücke. The departure hall is 100m long and leads to a 400m long flight gate with a roof whose characteristic for its lack of central support. Hangars are to be seen the side of the Hall and the roof doubles as a viewing terrace. A historic British Hastings reconnaissance plane is stored here. The design of the building’s façade is very typical of the period with a reinforced concrete framework dressed with limestone panels and long rows of identical windows.

Tempelhof closed down to the public in 1975 when it was replaced by Tegel Airport, also known for it’s highly original design. The architects, Meinhard von Gerkan, Vokwin Marg and Klaus Nickels came up with a circular, hexagonal drive-in access structure, which takes passengers directly to their respective departure Gates.

The Luftbrückdenkmal (Airlift Memorial) is located right outside the airport to honour those who fought for freedom in the city by participating in the supplies action. The monument is dedicated to the 79 pilots and personnel who lost their lives during the Airlift.

It is likely that Berlin’s Alliierten Museum (Allied Museum), presently situated in Zehlendorf, will at some point find its final location here. Other proposals for its future use include the transformation of the 400-hectare (990 acre) site of urban space into a creative industries industrial park with residential accommodation or a movie location for Berlin’s Babelsberg Film Studios.

( Text: )
Adresse: Flughafen Tempelhof
Platz der Luftbrücke
12101  Berlin
Architekt: Ernst Sagebiel
Stil: Nazi monumental style

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