Tempelhof: I choose Tempelhof airport because it has always been a fascinating place for me. I love the brutalist design style and warm, golden coloured stone. It is such an impressive piece of architecture. Intended originally to be built in a full circle, the building was only partially finished due to cataclysmic world events during the 1940’s that forced the Germans to concentrate their manpower in other areas and thus relegating the building to remain an arc.
Luckily, the building was spared the daily bombing runs by the Allies, as they knew they would eventually need it for themselves. During the cold war, it became a USAAF airbase and the lifeline of West-Berlin. I lived close by and each morning you would hear the military aeroplanes and Bell-Huey helicopters coming and going – every day.
A few times, I reluctantly went to the soldiers Silverwings disco with my GI friends, to experience a bit of American life in West-Berlin. I recall it had dreadfully fizzy American beer and a country-rock disco, complete with line dancing. The place stank of cigarettes and old beer and it appeared to be full of lumberjack shirted cowboy types and busty German girls with curly perms and low-cut dresses all trying to pick up smooth, black GIs.
After winning the Berlin Senates Rock Music award, I was very lucky to have been given a practice room for my band Shark Vegas in one part of this impressive building. This room was a former spare-parts storeroom for the Focke-Wulf aircraft that were being built in the bowls of the building during World War two. It had a thick, steel door and it was two stories down in the basement. Literally the underground. The building actually went much further underground than that, making it upon completion the largest building complex in the World. That was until the Americans built the Pentagon.
Although the lower floors were apparently flooded by the German Army in the last days of the war, my American GI friends told me the fanciful story that the USAAF actually had listening equipment situated deeper underground for monitoring Soviet military activity.
Outside, close to our practice room, there were two huge steel blast doors, about a metre thick which obviously denied entrance to some mysterious underground tunnel entrance. All around the door were warnings and no photography signs.
Then late one dismal sunday November night, I was with my partner Alistair writing some new songs in our room, when we heard a huge military transport aircraft landing. This was quite unusual as aeroplanes almost never flew at night. it was so loud even we could hear it deep underground! About half an hour later, Al came rushing down from a visit to the toilet and said there’s something going on upstairs.
We crept up to the door in the dark, and carefully opened it a crack, to see the place outside teeming with weaponised soldiers and a heavily laden military transporter truck poised to go down through the opened blast doors and deep into the building. it looked like a scene from a sci-fi film.
On the back of the truck was obviously a fighter aircraft of some sort. It’s tail sticking up was a dead give-away. To me it looked like a Harrier jump-jet. We thought, this clandestine activity actually was a violation of the treaty that the four powers had signed after the war, but as no one apart from us were here to witness this event, and i guess we were not going to be telling anyone (and besides, probably no one would believe us either). It was only after the fall of the wall and the end of the cold war, that i was finally able to gain access to this secretive tunnel. it was a grim concrete corridor with ominous rail tracks leading apparently nowhere. it was a very strange experience. this place was our underground bunker and quite fitting, seeing that i have always been associated with the Berlin underground music scene and this secluded subterrainian cavern was certainly one of those places that gave me a lot of inspiration during the 80s.
Photo taken at Tempelhof, Aug 2017
© petrov ahner