Ready for Take-Off: Berlin’s New Airport BER to Open 3 June 2012
BERLIN, Germany - On June 3, 2012, one chapter in Berlin’s aviation history will draw to a close and another one will begin, when the German capital’s new airport Berlin Brandenburg BER opens, and the two remaining airports, Tegel and Schönefeld, will be shut down permanently. (Tempelhof airport was closed in 2008.)
Construction work at the Berlin Brandenburg airport has now entered its final phase and more than 5,500 workers are busy with the completion of the new hub. The terminal, jet ways, road connections, and operation-specific buildings have for the most part been completed. Basic test operations began on November 24, 2011. In order to make a smooth transition on June 3, non-stop test runs with security forces, airline employees and ground crews are currently underway to reveal any weak spots and to remedy any potential problems.
The opening of a new, single capital airport is considered to be an elementary step in Berlin’s reunification process more than 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The German capital will finally have the international gateway it has so far lacked. "Berliners are really waiting for the new airport," says Burkhard Kieker, CEO of visitBerlin, the city’s tourism and convention bureau. "We say it’s one of the last missing jigsaw puzzle pieces in the resurrection of Berlin as an international mega city."
Construction on the new facilities began in 2006 at the site of the existing, formerly East German Schönefeld airport, with a host of ultra-modern buildings, super-efficient infrastructure and state-of-the-art runways. Nearly 2,500 acres were added to the old grounds; in total, the new airport will cover 3,675 acres, the equivalent of 2,000 football fields. At 5,800 feet apart, BER’s two parallel runways can be operated separately. The airport is built at a cost of Euro 2.5 billion.
Passengers at the new airport will find everything ranging from domestic and European to intercontinental flights under one roof in the central terminal ("one roof concept"). Featuring six floors, the building’s initial version will have enough space to handle up to 27 million passengers per year, 10% more than Tegel and Schönefeld’s 2011 throughput combined. However, expansion modules at BER will allow the structure to eventually accommodate up to 45 million passengers.
The new hub airport is not only ultra-efficient, its design will appeal to architecture aficionados around the world. Von Gerkan, Marg and Partners Architects (gmp), the firm responsible for the design of the new airport, dispensed of all fussiness in BER’s layout and design. The architecture is all about clarity and clean, geometric lines, channeling the timeless beauty of the 1926 Bauhaus in Dessau.
Accessibility is key at the new hub. To ensure the quickest and most convenient commute into the city and beyond, trains will leave from the train station just underneath the main terminal every 15 minutes. Travel time to Berlin’s city center will be less than half an hour at a cost of around just 3 Euros. If visitors choose to travel by car, they will have around 10,000 parking spaces at their disposal, located right in front of the terminal. Additionally, a newly constructed network of access roads and highways will allow travelers to reach Berlin’s city center in around 25 minutes. And good to know: Berlins new airport BER will even have it’s one cycle path to and from the city.
Environmental concerns were at the top of the developers list from the very beginning. The planners employed a range of eco-friendly measures to ensure the new airport’s sustainability: Flora and fauna at the construction site were protected and heat and energy recycling systems were incorporated into the design from the get-go. In the future, BER may even consider the use of rainwater cooling systems and geothermal energy.
With the opening on June 3, Germany’s two major airlines, Lufthansa and airberlin, will extend their flight operations from Berlin and open new routes from many European destinations as well as the U.S. (Los Angeles). The new airport is named after Willy Brandt, one of the most beloved and respected statesman of all time. A former mayor of West-Berlin and German chancellor, Brandt was one of the leading voices on the political left calling for reunification of the two German states. He is considered to be the perfect namesake for an airport that aims to re-establish Berlin’s legacy as the portal between East and West.
Architecture fans and airport buffs who would like to follow the final stages of construction can participate in guided tours or take a fascinating look behind the scenes of the existing Schönefeld airport with the help of a live airport webcam (for reservations and additional information, see www.berlin-airport.de. In addition, an info tower, standing 105 feet tall, will offer an outstanding view of what is currently the biggest and most exciting construction site in the Berlin region.
Information on travel to Berlin at www.visitBerlin.com.