Tegel airport, located in Berlin, served as a training area during World War II and became the city’s main airport in 1974 until its closure in 2020. Now, the five million square metre site is being transformed into an industrial park and residential area. The project will attract €8bn of public and private investments over the next 20 years, according to developer Tegel Projekt. Gudrun Sack, director of Tegel Projekt, tells fDi how the former airport will find a new purpose for Berlin with the concept of sustainability for the future.
Q: How does Projekt Tegel work?
A: We will have three areas on the airport. There’s the Urban Tech Republic, an area for students and start-ups. The Berliner Hochschule für Technik will be coming in and we have different start-ups in the industrial areas.
We are expecting 25,000 people to work at this place in the future. We are dealing with things like energy mobility, water, recycling, new materials, and information and communication. It is the idea of collaboration between industry, business and science.
Secondly, we have a residential area for up to 10,000 inhabitants. It will be completely built out of wood and materials from the region.
The third area is a recreation and nature park for residential trusts. At the moment, we are starting with renovating old buildings. We hope to finish everything by 2040.
Q: How will this project adopt the sustainability concept?
A: The ‘low-exergy’ net, which is a low-temperature water-based network, supplies the former airport with sustainable heating. The sources of energy for this network could be solar, wind or thermal energy, for example. Also, we are building everything using woods from the local area, which will be home for a lot of creatures, such as insects and birds. We are thinking of planning the details and the architecture around the animals.
The project is unique as it is specialised in sustainability and innovation. We have a lot of clients joining this project thanks to the European taxonomy, because this is a highly sustainable project.
Q: How will the redevelopment of the former airport impact on the local economy?
A: Tegel airport is in the middle of Berlin, providing easy access to talent. Also, we have a huge area for clients, industry and start-ups. It’s set to offer a place with good infrastructure with a low-energy network. In doing so, we are trying to bring the local economy together.
There are a lot of start-ups we are also looking for. We already have a French autonomous driving company because the fence used for the old airport is still here – it’s a good place for their tests. Also, a lot of research is already going on at the site, and experts from the university are already here to conduct research on print elevations, building pads and so on. We’d like to have clients, industry and start-ups to start their businesses here.
Q: Are there any challenges to executing the project on time?
A: The big challenges are, of course, the global challenges everyone else has at the moment. We have refugees from Ukraine at the airport now, and we had the vaccination centre here a few months ago. You never know what’s coming next, but we are used to dealing with all of this.
Of course, money is also a big point, including the energy prices and all of these global challenges. But we are hoping everything will work out. We had a green tech festival a few months ago, with 16,000 people coming. So, we still say that it is a good place for people in start-ups.
This interview was edited for brevity and clarity.