A Controversial Case – The New Berlin Airport

by Haiyi Huang (text written June 2015)

What has long been the controversial construction project in Berlin nowadays would have to be Berlin Brandenburg Airport, the new Berlin airport. Since its groundbreaking in 2006, the project has been the target for heated debate for its technical flaws during construction that delayed the opening for four times. Many, including professionals and citizens, consider this as the biggest failure in modern construction history of Berlin.

The design of the new Berlin Brandenburg airport was initiated after reunification at the location of Schönefeld. The 1.7-billion-euro project turns the former Schönefeld airport into a “state-of-the-art international hub by 2011”[1] (ideally). The desire of Berlin wanting to transform itself into a international metropolis has been clear since the reunification. It is understandable that after suffering from the wars and decades of isolation, Berlin wants to depart from its former misfortune and move forward to a bright future. But does it mean that the government should intensively put investments on a big project like this? Or like the Potsdamer Platz? What this leads to is a disregard of history as well as its inhabitants at the cost of losing its own identity.


© Günter Wicker / Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH

As ambitious as the politicians in Berlin, the new airport is designed to show the grandeur of Berlin’s modern architecture. The design of the airport is said to reflect architectural features from Schinkel to the Bauhaus [2], which does speak to Germany’s own architectural identity. However, the rigidity of the layout and highly organized geometric shape does not strike one as an airport where circulation of passengers is highly flexible and fluid. While modern architecture focuses on the functionality of the building, the new airport project ironically failed in this aspect: Lack of efficient ventilation, error fire protections and smoke circulation are serious functional issues to an airport.

Other reasons for this failure also attribute to corruptions and bad co-ordinations. Perhaps this is the perfect opportunity for Berlin’s politicians and government planners to really think about their role in developing large projects and whether it is worthy to invest in big projects like this to reinforce the international influence of the city.

Luftbild des Flughafens BER "Willy Brandt" am 9.7.2013

© Günter Wicker / Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH

[1] Hessler, Uwe. “Court to Rule on Controversial Plan for New Berlin Airport.” Weblog post. Deutsche Welle. Deutsche Welle, 08 Feb. 2006. Web.

[2]  “Airport Berlin Brandenburg Willy Brandt.” World-architects Project. World-Architects.com, n.d. Web.


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