Take a Tour Through the Mother of All Airports

In a city of controversial historic buildings, Berlin's massive Tempelhof Airport is one of the most embattled. This aging, elegant behemoth served as a hub for the Nazis and, later, for the Berlin Air Lift. Now, it's the focus of major development plans—and PBS just got a look inside.


In a new video we get a tour of Tempelhof, which has seen an incredible amount of history: It was built on the grounds of a medieval Knights of Templar meeting space, and the Wright brothers demonstrated their Flier here. The Nazis expanded it in the late 1930s, giving Tempelhof its unique, sweeping arc plan. But construction was still unfinished when the city was captured by the Soviet Army—and the airport changed hands again.

When Russia closed off Berlin to outside traffic in 1948, the Allies used Tempelhof to stage one of the most remarkable operations of all time: The Berlin Air Lift, which kept Berliners alive with supplies shuttled down onto the runway on almost continuous flights. After the altercations died down, Templehof enjoyed a long life as a commercial airport until it finally closed in 2007 after decades of decline.

That was just the beginning of a long public debate about what should be done with the monumental, iconic piece of architecture. Check out PBS's look at the plans, above. [Vimeo]