Inner-city Tempelhof Airport is famous for its large terminal building and the Airlift during the Berlin Blockade. Since flight operations ceased in 2008, the site has been turned into a vast public park.
Once constructed as one of Europe's largest commercial airports, Tempelhof Airport today has been a site of tranquility and leisure since its close-down in 2008. The airfield has been turned into a vast inner-city park, and the listed airport building into a venue hosting large events, festivals and trade shows. Although the future use of Tempelhof Airport remains unclear, the historic site will remain the effective monument to the Berlin Airlift of 1948-1949.
Tempelhof Airport and the Berlin Blockade
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.
Raisin bombers and chocolate pilots
The so-called "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 Airport remains a symbol of freedom and belongs to Berlin as much as Brandenburg Gate.
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, and the airline Deutsche Luft Hansa was in founded in Tempelhof in 1926.
Tempelhof Airport terminal
A new airport terminal 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.
Architectural features of Tempelhof Airport
The airport complex can be accessed via Platz der Luftbrücke. The departure hall is 100 meters long and leads to a 400 meters long flight gate with a roof whose most striking feature is its lack of central support. Hangars are to be seen the side of the hall and the roof doubles as a viewing terrace. 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.
Airlift Memorial outside Tempelhof Airport
Tempelhof Airport closed down to the public in 1975 when it was replaced by Tegel Airport, also known for its highly original design. The architects, Meinhard von Gerkan, Volkwin 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.
A vast open space in the centre Berlin
As flight operations eventually ceased in 2008, the city of Berlin regained a vast inner-city open space and one of the largest central buildings in the world. The former runway is ideal for taking a stroll or riding a bike and enjoy the broad expanse of the airfield which stretches to the horizon and gradually develops into a park.