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Sites of Berlin's industrial past get a second life

From Diana Magnay, CNN
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Reclaimed urban spaces
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Berliners are using old industrial spaces to improve their quality of life
  • Recently opened Tempelhof Park sits on the site of the city's former airport, which was closed in 2008
  • Robert Shaw has started a mobile vegetable patch at Moritzplatz, one of Berlin's busiest roundabouts

Berlin, Germany (CNN) -- Berlin's old industrial landscapes may not be much to look at, but they are providing the perfect playground for enterprising city dwellers wanting to get out and about.

From the vast expanse of a former airport to a tiny vegetable patch on the edge of a roundabout, Berliners are making the most of every piece of land to improve their quality of life.

Rita Suhrhoff is a park manager for Green Berlin GMBH, an organization which manages and develops green spaces in the capital city and assists Berlin with its urban planning.

She told CNN: "An old industrial space can make you think about the old ways of doing things. When you combine that with a place to relax without having to create new space -- just using the old -- that's something many towns can learn from."

It's just a closed airport with not much to see, but since May we have [had] more than 1.5 million visitors here.
--Michael Krebs
RELATED TOPICS
  • Berlin
  • Urban Planning
  • Urban Renewal
  • Germany

Among the organization's latest offerings is the 335-acre Tempelhof Park on the site of the city's former airport, which was built by the Nazis in the 1930s.

The once-bustling airport -- it was the site of the 1948 Berlin airlift that brought food to West Berliners after Soviets blockaded the city --closed in 2008 when a new international hub opened on the outskirts of the city.

The historic site opened as a public park in May and now it attracts visitors who come to cycle, skate, jog and fly kites.

Michael Krebs, another park manager at Green Berlin GMBH, said: "We were not sure if people would like it because it's just a closed airport with not much to see, but since May we have [had] more than 1.5 million visitors here."

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There is now a competition underway to find the best way to landscape the space as a public park.

Meanwhile at Moritzplatz, one of Berlin's busiest roundabouts, Robert Shaw has started a mobile vegetable patch.

For the last 18 months, volunteers have come to help pick and package the vegetables and herbs grown on this tiny patch of urban land.

"They are very different people. You have the Turkish grandma as well as the Russian grandma as well as the young German family as well as the hipster working for some advertising agency," Shaw told CNN.

The crates can be packed up and moved into storage for the winter and to any suitable site after that.

"Whenever this place is going to be sold, we can move away, which gives you more opportunities and a wider range of properties in the inner city you can go on [to]," he said.

Another site making use of Berlin's industrial past is the Suedgelaende Nature Park, an old railway switchyard abandoned in the 1950s.

Trees now grow where the railway sleepers once lay. The site is part public park, part wildlife sanctuary, part space for installation art -- just one more piece of reclaimed land enriching Berlin's urban life.