Public participation in the Tempelhof Airport Conversion Project

Tempelhof Airport is one of the largest development projects in Germany. The basic renovation of the enormous monument will take several decades and cost billions of euros. Of course, such a project is always the subject of discussions and disputes, although the preservation of the protected ensemble is not in question. However, there is always discussion about the right subsequent use of the infrastructure and industrial building, which has lost its original use since the termination of flight operations in 2008.

Tempelhof Airport is not an exception in this respect – conversion, as this type of reuse is called in urban development, is a centuries-old topic. Most cases of major conversion projects involve former industrial or commercial, infrastructure or military sites that are abandoned and put to a new use. Entire neighborhoods have sprung up around the world on former military, railroad or port sites – often in an exciting mix of existing buildings and modern architectural additions. Often, these sites have faded from the public consciousness. The reason is that while people are familiar with the history and significance of the site – a port, a factory, or a barracks where this or that significant thing happened – the sites were not accessible to the public for many years or decades. We drive past them, see them and perhaps know them, but they remain unmarked spots on our mental maps of the city. The core task of conversions is therefore not only to develop new uses and a new identity, but also to overcome the separation of the areas.

The Tempelhof airport that, as a whole consists of the large airport building, its adjoining buildings and the airfield, is just such a conversion project that is in various states of development.

At the latest since the closure of the airport in the 1990s became clear, there have been broad discussions about the future of the area. The discussion moves in waves, sometimes becoming louder and more heated and sometimes even pausing almost completely for a while. These discussions, often initiated and supported by civil society groups, are already an expression of a desire for public participation in the future development of the Tempelhof Airport. However, public participation in the planning discourse is usually referred to as a formalized form tied to the development process. In other words, not a self-initiated, but a requested public participation in more or less formalized processes.

Public participation at the Tempelhof Airport started in the 1990s, when Tempelhofer Feld (former airfield, now Berlin's largest city park) and the building still formed a single planning unit. Public participation has taken place in various stages, with a variety of formats, always linking to the current planning status and with the aim of communicating information, negotiating contentious issues and gathering input for further development.

The following overview of formalized public participation focuses on the period since the termination of flight operations in October 2008.

In 2010, for example, after the opening of Tempelhofer Feld (former airfield, now Berlin's largest city park), there was the kick-off of the pioneer process, which was based, among other things, on ideas workshops (2007 and 2008) and an online dialog (2009). The pioneer uses were to create places for pilot and impulse projects with a thematic orientation along the guiding themes in the pioneer fields – as such the planned construction fields of the master plan were designated. (See the presentation Pioneers and Interim Users of the Temporhof Field (Grün Berlin GmbH) 2015.

In 2013, a site conference on the master plan and a planning dialog on the ideas competition for the Central and Regional Library Berlin (ZLB) took place, as well as planning cells with 69 randomly selected citizens who formulated recommendations in the form of a citizens' report as part of the Tempelhofer Damm neighborhood development plan process. In May 2014, efforts to build on the Tempelhof Field came to an abrupt end with the successful "Tempelhof Field" referendum, which put a law against building on Tempelhofer Feld (former airfield) and in favor of preserving it to a vote.

With the opening of the Tempelhofer Feld as a public park, buildings and the Tempelhofer Feld were separated from each other by fences, and responsibility for further development was divided between two administrations and two state-owned companies. From then on, Grün Berlin GmbH was responsible for the Tempelhof Field on behalf of today's Senate Department for the Environment, Mobility, Consumer Protection and Climate Protection (SenUMVK), while Tempelhof Projekt GmbH was responsible for the further development of the airport building on behalf of the Senate Department for Urban Development, Building and Housing (SenSBW). This also separated the public participation objects. Since then, the involvement in the green area of the Tempelhof Field has focused on the implementation of the so-called Development and Maintenance Plan (EPP). This process is organized by the so-called 'Feldkoordination', a seven-member committee, and accompanied by Grün Berlin GmbH. The public participation in the THF can be roughly divided into the following phases:

Table: Overview of the Public participation phases at the Tempelhof airport. The focus of the following description of the Public participation for the airport building is highlighted in yellow. For information on Public participation for the Templehof Field, please visit the website of the responsible Senate Department: Tempelhof Field Participation Model – Tempelhof Field (

Public participation phases at the Tempelhof airport

     Airport building and airfield
2007 – 2014 Public participation in the context of the Templehof Freedom Master Plan
  Airport building Airfield
2014 – 2017 Public participation pause due to operation of emergency refugee shelter Public participation in the Development and Maintenance Plan (EPP),
field forum,
so-called 'Feldkoordination' and workshops
2017 – 2019 Public participation procedure for the subsequent use of the building
Since 2019 Public Participation pause after reflection of the working committee


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