Tempelhof Airport (closed in 2008 but in appearance today, still largely as it was when last operating) in Berlin has a number of claims for international attention.
It was the site in 1909 where Orville Wright (of Wright Brothers fame) set a new world record for powered flight altitude when he remained in the air for an hour and reached a height of 160 metres.
Its terminal building when completed by Hitler’s Nazi regime in 1941, was said to be the largest building of its kind in the world and had been designed to handle 6 million passengers per year. Its immense size is demonstrated in the recent photo below (that includes only part of the building) where, if you enlarge the view in the centre, you will see a four-engine DC4 aircraft parked on the apron under the cantilevered canopy.
The outside of the building from the landside reflects the austere and monumental architecture of and domineering intentions of the regime and thus the power of the then ‘new Germany’.
It was the centrepiece of the Berlin Airlift which lasted for about 11 months from June 1948 to May 1949 when the Soviets, in protest at the proposed establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany, closed the ‘island’ (surrounded by East Germany) of West Berlin to all land and water access. Rather than abandoning West Berlin and its 2 million inhabitants to Soviet occupation and rule, the Americans utilised three 32-kilometres wide air corridors to airlift 5,000 tons per day of coal, food and other essentials IN and war refugees OUT. Tempelhof saw 1,000 flights per day on peak days.
Today, Tempelhof is open to the public (since 2010) and is used in parts for community gardens, hay harvesting, walking and riding (perhaps partly because of its large flat area and partly because of the novelty of being on airfield runways that are not normally available to the public), picnics, beer gardens, trade fairs, exhibitions, music festivals and other uses.
Tomorrow, Tempelhof is to be a new urban planning experiment with a host of possibilities but including one of its buildings becoming a business and start-up centre for the creative industries.