Urban gardens take off well at fabled airport

AFP | NATION
A woman reads a newspaper at Tempelhof Airport, site of the Berlin Airlift and home to one of Europe’s biggest community gardens.

BERLIN, Monday

It’s sunflowers instead of planes, and kale instead of kerosene, at the legendary Tempelhof Airport, site of Berlin Airlift and now home to one of Europe’s biggest and most unusual urban gardens.

Launched by a dozen “pioneers” in April, the Allmende Kontor plot now has about 300 people growing fruit, vegetables and flowers between the former runways of the airport, which closed nearly three years ago.

Hot peppers, chestnut saplings, cosmos and millet now reach for skies once filled with Allied jets ferrying essential supplies to West Berlin during the 1948-49 Soviet blockade at the start of the Cold War.

The Nazi-built terminal, called by star architect Norman Foster “the mother of all airports”, forms a sweeping crescent in the distance as hobby farmers of all ages and stripes tend to their crops.

Gerda Muennich, one of the organisers of Allmende Kontor, which takes its name from a mediaeval form of community gardening, says the initiative is also meant to reflect the diverse cultural makeup of the surrounding neighbourhoods.

“One of our members plans to break the Ramadhan fast with a big picnic here,” the 71-year-old said on a tour of the 5,000-square-metre (54,000 square-foot) garden, referring to the Muslim holy month.

Just beyond the airport fence is Neukoelln, a working class district of Germans, Arabs and Turks undergoing rapid gentrification.

The closing of Tempelhof to make way for an expanded facility on the city’s outskirts has fuelled the transformation of the surrounding area as the noise and pollution of air traffic have given way to a windswept park. (AFP)

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