Tempelhof Berlin

“Berlin is a pioneer in re-using buildings that were left over after the division of the city. It’s a party city. And Tempelhof has a raw charm that people like. It’s not ready made, with everything at hand.” – Tempelhof Projekt chief Gerhard W Steindorf

What + Why // In the 1930s, Nazi Germany built Tempelhof Airport as a primary location for managing its fleets. Today, that same site is one of the largest public parks in the world (larger than Central Park), serving as a hub for play, art, recreation, tourism, and even refuge – recently accommodating up to 1000 Syrian refugees. Intentionally preserving its original airport structures and form, Tempelhof is a remarkable example of how we can make minor shifts in design, ownership, and access to entirely repurpose physical space.

Model // Tempelhof, like much of Berlin, preserves rather than overrides its history. It is owned and maintained by the government and similar to the celebration of graffiti on the Berlin Wall, Tempelhof encourages free-form art, play, and repurposing of the Nazi Airport space – the community reclaiming ownership over its city in inventive ways. It hosts events, fairs, concerts, and sporting matches, and is home to community art projects and gardens. Its indoor, terminal space currently acts as a public, preserved museum, but is ultimately expected to open up as studio and recording space – “a campus for creatives”. Further, about 80% of the park has been identified as an important habitat for redlisted birds and insects, gaining protection from wildlife organizations. And, during 2015, it became a center for Syrian refugees.

Tension // Though over 60% of the Berlin public opted to keep Tempelhof as a public park during the 2014 Berlin polls, many were left dumbfounded and frustrated by the city’s loss of cheap, undeveloped space on which it could expand housing and offices. As Project Chief, Steindorf put it: “This was the chance for affordable housing. Berlin needs housing. Another 250,000 people are expected to move to the city by 2020.”

What Sets it Apart //

  • Intentionally undesigned and open-ended
  • History repurposed
  • Community-led design
  • Dynamic space leaves room for diverse events + needs (i.e. refugee camp vs. concert)
  • Massive, so massively accomodating


Photo Credit


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