The Guardian asked me to write about Tempelhof for its Cities site focused on urban development. You can read the article here. What follows is an extended version with some minor changes and lots of additional historical detail, along with a gansey-load of photos. Tempelhof was never really abandoned – it has always been under someone’s watchful eye – but the story of a discarded airport nevertheless merits inclusion here. I didn’t bother with the usual guide-points on how to find it, get in, etc. Any Berliner can tell you where it is.
It’s never easy to ask someone to give back a cherished gift. In 2014, politicians asked Berliners to do exactly that with Tempelhof, the former airport turned much-loved communal area.
Famous as the lifeline for West Berlin during the Cold War, Tempelhof’s airfield had become the city’s biggest park. Once it was turned over to the public in May 2010, the site became immensely popular with families, joggers, rollerbladers, kite-flyers, wind-karters, urban gardeners, yoga enthusiasts, hipsters and layabouts; smoke rises in summer from the abundance of barbecues.