Landmarks: Berlin-Templehof Airport

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The Independent Culture
When you arrive at the Berlin-Templehof Airport, designed in 1936 by Ernst Sagebiel - an Air Ministry architect - you are first struck by the dramatic crescent arc at the end of the runway. Imagine a canopy cantilevered on the scale of a football stadium, about six storeys high, that follows the curve of the arc right the way around and extends out 50 metres from where it is supported at the back. It is like a big bus shelter: the aircraft land and taxi beneath it. Although you are outside you have a sense that you are part of the building.

Each end of the arc extends like arms or wings defining one's field of vision and cradling the view of the runway. The canopy adjoins a rectangular marble entrance hall with its restrained Thirties opulence and a U- shaped square outside, where the cars arrive. It is all very formal and grand.

Compared with the bland decor and enclosed spaces of modern airports, I think there is a great sense of occasion when you arrive at Templehof because you can see the Thirties fascination with the whole idea of flying. It is a plea not to play down the whole experience to being one merely of utility. It tries to catch the spirit of flying itself which I think people do still enjoy. For me it is the last memorable experience I had when visiting somewhere. Although it is vast you get a sense of how the whole place is laid out and where you are supposed to go, whereas in a modern airport I think you just end up having to follow the signs or be directed, a rather demeaning experience.

John Burrell is a partner with Burrell Foley Fischer, Covent Garden, London WC2

(Photograph omitted)

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