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Disused Berlin airport to be transformed into sustainable neighbourhood

A once bustling hub for German airliners is set to become a liveable, sustainable haven within the next decade. Plans are underway for a self-sufficient and car free neighbourhood including 5,000 apartments, schools, parks, and green businesses.

After nearly 50 years of facilitating commercial flights, a bustling region that was once named Berlin Tegel Airport will soon become a benchmark for sustainable living. That’s what you call flipping the script.

The airport was previously renowned as the fourth busiest in Germany, initially opening in 1948 (during the Cold War) for the international movement of aid and goods. Its commercial peak of 2019 saw more than 24m passengers pass through its doors.

Having been decommissioned just last year, workers have now begun clearing the vast stretch of land in preparation of an entirely disparate project: a serene neighbourhood for living and business built with the climate in mind.

© Fig.: Macina
Credit: Tegel Projekt GmbH

The initial redevelopment permits have been acquired by a team called Tegel Projekt and its design mockups completely reimagine the landscape for a more ecologically considerate purpose.

Preliminary slides on the website feature futuristic apartment complexes draped in vertical plantation, numerous sprawling green park areas, and what is presumably the old 8,000ft runway converted into a conurbation-long footpath – complete with shops, restaurants, schools, and day care centres.

To ensure that old aviation fuel emissions aren’t directly traded for local traffic pollution, the 5km mini-metropolis is specifically designed for ease of access on foot. Wide bicycle lanes weave through the streets, and – much like an airport – limited transit vehicles will be made available to help those with disabilities get around.

Credit: Tegel Projekt GmbH

The 100-acre residential area will have 5,000 ‘affordable’ apartments and homes built from local German timber, ensuring an 80% reduction in construction emissions. Each rooftop is to be fitted with solar panels for domestic electricity, and geothermal heating will be provided from adjacent commercial buildings.

It’s not just energy efficiency that the team is prioritising either. The plan also considers biodiversity and aims to simultaneously support up to 14 rare species, including nightingale grasshoppers and broad winged bats. Perhaps shut the windows overnight if you’re staying.

In the aim of being as self-sufficient as possible, ‘sponge city’ technology will be implemented throughout the neighbourhood to capture rain water and prevent flooding. An underground supply should help to tend the many roof gardens, and large leaved deciduous trees are strategically placed to act as natural air-conditioning.

Credit: Tegel Projekt GmbH

Impressively, it seems every design aspect has an intrinsic link to the climate, but how does Tegel Projekt hope to develop and maintain all this innovation?

Bordering the sustainable haven, blueprint drafts show a commercial part of the redevelopment called the Urban Tech Republic. As its name suggests, it’s here that on-site start-ups will hone green systems to test and implement in the residential area – sort of like a mini Silicon Valley (but for good).

Allocation of land and the early knockings of civil engineering works are already underway, but the first residential buildings and education campus won’t be ready until 2027.

Beyond that, completion of the entire district is slated to happen shortly beyond 2030.


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