MIAMI – Berlin Tegel Airport (TXL) is no more, officially losing its airport status. The last flight, operated by Air France (AGF) which was coincidentally also the first to fly to TXL in 1960, left the airport on November 8, 2020, when the long-awaited Brandebourg Airport (BER) finally opened its gates to traffic.
TXL, named after Otto Lilienthal, was for decades the only way out for Berliners, enclaved by the Iron Curtain and the Cold War. Many will miss this airport; many will not. TXL is situated not far from the city center in the former French sector of West Berlin.
The airport opened in 1948 and was meant to cater to 2.5 million travelers per year but it developed into a very busy and over-saturated airport which saw over 20 million passengers go thru its facilities. It also became notorious for its serial delays and baggage losses.
In 1989, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the death warrant of TXL was signed. The city was re-united, and a new, much bigger Berlin-Brandenburg Airport (BER) would have to be built.
A Radical Redesign
In 1965, three young architects, Meinhard von Gerkan, Volkwin Marg, and Klaus Nickels, all around the age of 30, proposed a radical airport design that foresaw many aspects of globalized capitalism and its architecture.
The “short-distance airport” in Berlin-Tegel was well ahead of its time in systematically incorporating the concepts of performance, optimization, and functionality.
Its uniqueness as a model-type structure was paradoxical in its “replicability” – that is, its capacity for global replication. TXL was arguably one of the first major “global” transport buildings in the modern sense – the model for what will be the future in 1965.
Comments from Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH CEO
According to Aerobuzz.fr, Engelbert Lütke Daldrup, CEO of Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH, summed the history of this airport in light of the new BER by saying, “Berlin-Tegel Airport performed its function perfectly until the last day.”"Berlin-Tegel Airport performed its function perfectly until the last day." Engelbert Lütke Daldrup, CEO of Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH Click To Tweet
“Fears that the new BER airport would have operational problems did not materialize. Berlin-Brandenburg Airport is efficient, modern, functional, and well perceived by passengers. We will now pave the way for a new era at the Tegel hub.”
Demolitions Already Underway
TXL, which remained operational until May 4 in case of necessity, is already undergoing demolition work on Terminal C3, the bridge connecting terminal A/B and C, the baggage transfers and customs area, and the VIP hall in terminal A.
Of course, shops and restaurants are closed or have moved out. In addition, the area where TXL is located, with approximately 130 buildings, will be handed over to the Berlin authorities in August 2021.
The Urban Tech Republic Project
From this date, a new future shall begin for the former airport. A project named “Berlin TXL – The Urban Tech Republic” will be taking over to transform TXL into a research/industrial park for urban technologies.
Further, Berlin will be getting back a large piece of the city and gain space for industry, commerce, and science. The only part from TXL to be kept is the hexagonally shaped terminal, now classified as a historical building.
A New Residential Area
Besides the Urban tech Republic, the former airport area will host a residential quarter with over 9,000 apartments and a population of at least 18,000 people. The total Berlin TXL area will cover an area of 5 km2 equivalent, to give an idea of its size, to 5% of Paris’ urban area.
The residential construction work timeframe ranges from fall 2021, with the start of preliminary works, up to 2040 for the completion of the overall project.
Berlin’s Gateway to the Past
As for the edifice itself, TXL’s architecture is centered on a triangular grid, which is mirrored in the elevation: the geometry of the triangle serves as the ordering principle for both structure and technical installations. Both inside and out, the concrete shell is left exposed. The building’s structural “skeleton” is still visible.
Tegel is a modernist memento mori of Berlin’s past. A TXL enthusiast describes the airport nostalgically on findingberlin.com, detailing the wilting plastic and the atmosphere of stale cigarette smoke that modernist buildings evoke; the Ballardian system of entangled concrete roads that link the highway to the ramps and eventually to the individual gates, leading right into the belly of the unusual hexagon; the brutish, grey, and moldy facade with the triumphant and edgy tower.
An Emblem of Berlin
Used frequently as a symbol of West-Berlin’s history of the past, and “political propaganda of the present,” TXL is a living monument to the architects’ innovative nature, as well as an emblem of Berlin’s resilience against – or denial of – the practical changes the city has had to undergo over the years.
If Tempelhof served as Berlin’s “gateway to the future” during the Cold War, says the blogger, “Tegel is Berlin’s gateway to the past,” now more than ever.
Featured image: Berlin-Tegel Otto Lilienthal Airport. Photo: Christian Winter/Airways