How to Levitate the Public

Text by Thomas Mader
Photography by Hannes Früh

Köelsch – Loreley
Speicher 68 (2010)

In the spring of 2010, Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport, designed during World War II to be one of Europe’s major hubs, re-opened to the public for the first time in over 80 years. Prior to the re-opening of the defunct airport, there were many heated protests and controversies concerning the plans for the re-making of the space. Especially contentious was the announcement by city officials to turn parts of the premises set in a central location in the city—roughly 380 hectares, or the size of 500 soccer fields—into a model district of upper class living with luxury apartments in order to “positively influence” the surrounding neighbourhoods. Residents feared that the rents in the neighbouring districts might escalate, allotment owners were afraid to lose their properties, and a conglomerate of leftist groups and organizations angrily predicted another loss of valuable public space and a transformation of the airfield into yet another playground for the rich and powerful.

Levitate the public Tempelhof Airport Berlin

The situation almost escalated during a violent protest march, when a policeman in plain clothes drew his gun on one of the protesters. This situation generated a lot of media attention, provoking a public outcry. It quickly became the talk of the town only to be forgotten shortly after the incident. Two years have passed since the opening and different scenarios have been drawn up for the use of the airfield, some of which cannot be taken too seriously. These different proposals have been pondered over, but no conclusion has been reached. The idea of giving one square meter of land to every Berliner was ignored. The proposal to pile up an artificial skiing mountain in the center of the airfield was simply too ridiculous to put into practice. And the plan to turn the massive airport building—which is one of the largest buildings in Europe and currently under a preservation order—into an airplane-accessible private plastic surgery clinic had failed due to monetary issues.

Read more in N˚4: Flight.