Ramble On

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Part 8: Tempelhofer Freiheit and the Airport's Cultural History


For the last few weeks my posts have used the back drop of a technical paper by Christine Heeb as a way to look at the cultural history of Tempelhof Airport in Berlin.  My intentions were not only to learn more about the place I lived while I was stationed for nearly five years in the 1980’s, but also to come back around to a series of posts I did last year on the airport as a city park to see how this current use acknowledges the history of this nearly 1,000 acre property. 

I’ll include a link to both of the sources for this post at the end – Heeb’s thesis as well as the homepage for Tempelhof Freiheit.  One of the introductory paragraphs about the plan of the park introduces the concept as follows: 

The present form of the open space is a transitional stage and starting-point for what will be an ongoing development process. From this space, once used only for airport operations, publicly developed, multi-use, structured urban parkland will gradually arise.

As a park, Tempehof is organized around six themes, which I’ve sourced below from the Tempelhofer Freiheit page.  For me, there were many new facts in these descriptions; for example I knew about the nearby mosque, and had heard the Imam’s call to prayer many times there while out on runs along the airfield perimeter, but I didn’t know about the Hindu center over at Hasenheide.  I knew that there had been military production at Tempelhof during World War II, but I didn’t know that forced labor was used here.    

·         Stage for the newWith its unique history, its inner-city location, and its impressive architecture, it has the power to inspire the widest variety of emotions and memories.  At the same time, it is a spot that produces new ideas. 
·         Clean future technologiesThe interplay between nature, economy, and urban life at this location is unparalleled.  Tempelhofer Freiheit offers space for information, events, and discussions. As a historical transit hub, it can again become a space for experience and adventure, as well as, in the future, the display of modern transport concepts. 
·         Knowledge and learningThe historical memory of Tempelhof is imprinted above all by the period of the Berlin Airlift. …these acts of memory must go beyond the Allied period, and include the National Socialism era. Tempelhof Airport is also a symbol of totalitarian ideology. Thousands of forced labourers were here used for military arms production, and Berlin's first concentration camp, KZ Columbia, was erected here. The principle of "knowledge and learning" is impossible without recalling both of these aspects.
·         Sports and healthThrough the interplay of sports, leisure, and recreation, Tempelhofer Freiheit can take on a special place in Berlin's health landscape. Tempelhof already offers the freedom associated with vast open space, and with the planned expansion of its sports facilities, it will become a magnet for visitors across the city. 
·         Dialog of religionsMany Christian churches sit in the immediate vicinity of Tempelhofer Freiheit, as does Berlin's largest mosque. In nearby Hasenheide stands the Sri Ganesha Hindu Temple.  Drawing on this experience, Tempelhofer Freiheit will become a centre for interfaith dialogue. Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Muslims aim to create the "Religion at Tempelhof Field" association. 
·         Neighborhood integrationA key element of sustainable social urban development is the inclusion of and participation by citizens. A project with the dimensions of Tempelhofer Freiheit can only be developed carefully and gradually. The closure of the airport and the opening of Tempelhof Park in May 2010 has already had an influence on the dynamics within the surrounding neighborhoods, particularly in northern Neuk├Âlln. 

For now, to wrap up the series briefly, I wanted to use a tabular analysis to cross-reference Heeb’s historic research with these new themes for the city park at Tempelhof.  Using the six major “eras” in the historic development of the land that comprises the airfield, the table assesses whether there was some aspect of the cultural theme that took place during those timeframes.  In a future post, I will come back to this table for reference, setting out a few of my memories about the Cold War era, when I was stationed there.



I am out of time for today’s post, so this is definitely something I’d like to get back to – I need to clean up this image, transferred from MS Word, and perhaps a couple of posts are yet to come from this exploration.  In any case, here are links to the two main points of reference for this material.

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