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The Tempelhof Airfield

The gates are now open to the Tempelhofer Feld, a public park on what was the airstrip of Tempelhof Airport before it closed in 2008.


You can cycle at full speed down the paved surface where pilots landed during the 1948 Berlin Airlift, hold your arms out wide, see the weeds and directional signs to each side as you might through an aircraft window.

The terminal was built by the Nazis. It was suppose to be the great welcome to Hitler’s new capital. It is heavy, monumental, with limestone facades. This, the ‘mother of all airports’ (says Norman Foster), was meant to last. Now Berliners flash before it, across the broken asphalt, on their bicycles or rollerblades.

There is the hint of illicit, of being somewhere you shouldn’t, as if the rules are suddenly invalidated, like the gates of the palace of a deposed monarch thrown open. You can now walk through the halls of state in your running shoes. Or, seeing the weeds invading the cracks on the pavement, you see how the ruins of the 20th century might look to future archaeologists.

There is a sudden whiff of freedom with the loss of an important innovation, in this case the aircraft. I imagine all the airports of Europe freed up to the cyclists and strollers of their cities as an Icelandic volcano blots the sky. The arrow points forward, it seems to the clouds, and somehow the thrill of flight is inverted; the novelty is that you cannot go there any longer.

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