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Photo: Martin Kaste/NPR
Tempelhof, a German airfield once used for the Berlin airlift, is now a big, open park featuring recreational activities and temporary housing for refugees.

I recently learned that Germany has a reputation for repurposing old buildings in ways that maintain aspects of historical significance. That seems to be true of how the country is adapting an old airfield to modern uses.

Sam Shead reported at Business Insider, “Berlin is a city full of abandoned buildings with long and troublesome histories. But one building has been through more turmoil than most: Tempelhof Airport. …

“Tempelhof has been used to test some of the world’s first aircraft, house World War II prisoners, and give the people of West Berlin a vital lifeline to the outside world during the Cold War. It’s also been used to film movies such as ‘The Hunger Games,’ ‘The Bourne Supremacy,’ and ‘Bridge of Spies.’ …

“Tempelhof was designed to wow visitors to the new Third Reich capital of Germania. It represents the monumental thinking behind Nazi architecture and it’s a landmark in civil engineering. …

“Berliners flocked to the airfield to see early airships and balloons being tested. It was here, for example, that the Humboldt balloon was launched on its maiden voyage on March 1, 1893. …

“At the end of World War II, the US, British, French, and Soviet military forces divided and occupied Germany. Berlin, which was also divided into occupation zones, was located far inside Soviet-controlled eastern Germany.

“There was initially an alliance between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union in Berlin, but on June 24, 1948, the Soviet forces blockaded rail, road, and water access to parts of Berlin that were controlled by the Western Allies.

” ‘The United States and United Kingdom responded by airlifting food and fuel to Berlin from Allied airbases in western Germany,’ the US Office of The Historian website says. ‘The crisis ended on May 12, 1949, when Soviet forces lifted the blockade on land access to western Berlin.’ …

“The airport eventually ended up with many of the things that are commonplace in airports today, such as restaurants.” Shead adds that the airfield is now used by “kite surfers, rollerbladers, allotment enthusiasts, artists, cyclists, joggers, jugglers, batton twirlers, and dancers. …

“Tempelhof is also home to Germany’s largest refugee shelter. There were 3,000 refugees from countries like Iraq and Syria living in a hangar at one point, but that number has fallen to about 600 as German authorities have relocated many of them, while others have returned home. There is enough space in the hangar for 7,000 refugees. … The shelter is closed to the public, but there is a refugee cafe in Hanger 1 the public can visit and provide German lessons.”

I must say, I like to think how very unhappy the WW II owners of this airfield would be about that. Justice served.

More at Business Insider, here.

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I really like Michelle Aldredge’s blog on writing and the arts, Gwarlingo. (The word gwarlingo, Aldredge says, is Welsh for the rushing sound a grandfather clock makes before striking, “the movement before the moment.”)

See my post about Gwarlingo and artistic Japanese manhole covers here.

This week Aldredge wrote that she had recently “stumbled across a small online collection of rare color images taken by photographers from the Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information. The … photograph of Jack Whinery and his family was so remarkable and surprising that I immediately began exploring the online archive of the Library of Congress, which owns the images. The 1,610 Kodachrome transparencies were produced by FSA and OWI photographers like John Vachon, Marion Post Wolcott, Jack Delano, and Russell Lee. They are less well known and far less extensive than their black and white images, but their rarity only increases their impact.”

Check out the America in Transition photos.

*Jack Whinery, homesteader, and his family. Pie Town, New Mexico, October 1940. Photo by Russell Lee. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress*

Another great Gwarlingo post was on poetry bombing.

“Since 2001,” writes Aldredge, “the Chilean art collective Casagrande has been staging ‘Poetry Rain’ projects in cities like Warsaw, Berlin, Santiago de Chile, Dubrovnik, and Guernica – all cities that have suffered aerial bombings in their history. The most recent event took place in Berlin in 2010 and was part of the Long Night of Museums. Crowds of thousands gathered in the city’s Lustgarten as 100,000 poems rained down from the sky.” Read more here.

I also found a happy video.

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