What would happen if Rome’s mayor proposed turning the Coliseum into a music venue? Or Athenian city councillors rented out the Acropolis for a fashion show? Or Stonehenge was opened to joggers and skateboarders? No doubt locals and foreigners alike would be outraged. So what’s going on with Berliners and Tempelhof?
Tempelhof airport is the world’s most stunning example of fascist monumental architecture. It’s a former Royal Prussian parade ground, the spot where hot air balloons, Orville Wright and zeppelins once flew. It’s the airfield where the majority of American and British ‘candy-bombers’ landed during the Berlin air-lift, defeating Stalin’s attempt to starve the city into submission. It is the vast ‘mother of all airports’ – according to architect Norman Foster -- with façades of shell limestone and a 1.2 kilometre-long terminal building which features an enormous overhanging canopy that sheltered passengers disembarking from Junkers G-38 and Douglas DC-3s. There is no building like it anywhere, yet in 2008 Berlin’s leaders closed it to aircraft – and they still can’t come up with a worthy idea of what to do with it.
This bitter sweet walk begins at U Paradestrasse or S+U Tempelhof. Gaze in awe at the monumental buildings. Wonder at the city fathers’ failure of imagination (they rent them out from time to time for concerts, fashion shows and the Popkomm music week). Slip behind them onto the runways and aprons which cover an area equivalent to 525 football fields. Join the rollerbladers, kite-flyers, cyclists and walkers to ramble and roam. And be amazed that like Tempelhof, Berlin-Tegel airport, the fourth busiest airport in Germany and one of the most convenient in Europe, will also be closed from June for no sensible reason.