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Monocolumn: Life After Death For Berlin’s Old Airports

Monocolumn: Life After Death For Berlin’s Old Airports
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A year from today, the long-awaited Berlin Brandenburg International airport (BBI) will open next to the site of Berlin-Schönefeld, finally ending a long and drawn out game of airport musical chairs.

Monocle
  • 2 june 2011

Monocolumn is Monocle’s daily bulletin of news and opinion. Catch up with previous editions here.

A year from today, the long-awaited Berlin Brandenburg International airport (BBI) will open next to the site of Berlin-Schönefeld, finally ending a long and drawn out game of airport musical chairs. The new airport will replace Schönefeld, taking its runway and adding another.

The pressure on BBI is huge: by the time the ribbon is cut at the new airport, the city will have lost three others in a total of five years. Tempelhof airport closed in 2008, while Schönefeld and Tegel, Berlin’s busiest, will close the day BBI opens. The question is, what to do with the old ones?

Templehof Airport will be missed most of all. It was one of the first commercial airports and a lifeline during the Berlin Blockade. After a tug-of-war over development plans, it was supposed to be reborn as Tempelhofer Park in May 2010. With little development so far, it remains a sea of meadows, with people cycling, running, and rollerblading on the old runways.

Current building plans for the larger Tempelhof area include apartments, a huge public library, an eco business-park and community buildings that will breathe life into deprived neighbouring districts. The listed terminal building will host exhibitions and provide office space.

The city recently selected architects Gross Max and Sutherland Hussey to remodel the parkland, with work scheduled to start in 2013. The firm’s design preserves the runways, adding oddities such as ‘cloud pavilions’ and a 60m-high mountain, providing a nice counterpart to the city’s multi-billion euro mountain of debt. Locals are questioning the purpose of the airport’s final incarnation, and its price tag.

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