Saturday, 10 May 2014

Tempelhof Airport - Reappropriation of a Nazi Landmark

Tempelhofer Freiheit (Tempelhof Freedom) Once a masterpiece of the Third Reich, now a open public space and proposed site for a new social housing scheme.

Designated an airport in 1923 the old terminal was constructed in 1927 and was the first with an underground railway. As part of Albert Speer's designs for Welthauptstadt Germania ("World Capital Germania), Ernst Sagebiel was commissioned in to replace the old terminal building with a new building that was equal to the party's aspirations and ideology and designed in mind with anticipation for it becoming the gateway to Europe as well as the symbol for the Welthauptstadt Germania.

A monumental building, the biggest in Europe at the time, it embodied the Nazi ideology; clean, pure and strong with its repetitive limestone facade not dissimilar to a fortress, a representation of the strength and impenetrability of Nazi regime. “The mother of all modern airports,” Sir Norman Foster has called it. The terminal building consists of a 1,200-meter-long arc of hangars beneath a huge cantilevered roof that was designed to protect arriving and departing passengers from the elements. In plan the building curves to represent an eagle in flight, apt as the Eagle has always featured on the German coat of arms as well as being used by the Nazis atop the swastika.

Templehof played its role as part of the war machine and was home to over two thousand workers who initially were recruited from occupied European countries but later taken by force, abducted and brought to Berlin. Columbia-Haus, Berlin's only concentration camp, which was located on the edge of Tempelhof, also provided labour to Tempelhof.

Even with its design and conception firmly embedded with Nazi ideology along with its role during the war Tempelhof is equally associated with freedom. After the war it was the setting for “Operation Vittles”, the Berlin airlift that was executed during 1948-49. The Soviets imposed a blockade by land and water into the Western parts of the city, the only accessible routes being three 32km air corridors across the Soviet Zone of occupation. The Allies chose to supply the city with food and fuel to sustain the city's
 inhabitants for the next eleven months by air with 200,000 shipments that required planes to take off and land every 3 minutes. 

Tempelhof is now part of a masterplan, Tempelhofer Freiheit (Tempelhof Freedom). A proposition of residential and commercial sites with leisure and cultural amenities located around the edge of the park. The park is currently open and before I arrived I was expecting a barren landscape but was pleasantly surprised to see hoards of people enjoying the space around the airfield. Families having barbecues and picnics, kites being flown, people cycling and playing sports. People of different cultures and races now all re-appropriating a site that was once intended to represent the Nazi ideology. It is now a free public space for all to enjoy.

Templehof Terminal building from the airfield.

The once runway now park of Templehof.

Luggage loading bay.

Loading bay entrance.

Air raid shelter under Tempelhof.

Paintings inside the Air raid shelter.

Squash court located in the Basement

Squash court and entrance to air raid shelter.

Staircase inside one of the towers.
With the depths on Templeholf, under the services floors.

Above the main entrance hall.

Unfinished portion of the staircase.
Gymnasium for the USAF

USAF basketball team badge.

Bright shower.

USAF recreation area.

Once USAF bowling alley.

Main Entrance Hall.
Depths of Templehof.
Depths of Templehof.

Heating floor.

Heating floor.

Main entrance.
Tempelhof facade.

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