Scaling Tempelhof: Berlin to Get Mountain, But No Matterhorn

Berlin will move ahead in 2013 to permanently transform its former Tempelhof Airport into a public park. The award-winning design will include a 60-meter mountain commemorating one of the German capital city's historical scientific leaders. Although no Matterhorn, the rocky crags will be plenty for Berlin's Alpine enthusiasts to scale.

Berlin's former Tempelhof Airport will get its mountain after all, only far smaller than a fantasy Matterhorn that became an Internet hit a few years back. Zoom
Gross.Max / Sutherland Hussey

Berlin's former Tempelhof Airport will get its mountain after all, only far smaller than a fantasy Matterhorn that became an Internet hit a few years back.

When city officials created a competition for the future of the disused Tempelhof Airport smack dab in the middle of Berlin a few years back, the entries were so boring that they prompted local architect Jakob Tigges to audaciously propose that the city build a Matterhorn-style Berg on the former landing strip, which closed in October 2008. At 1,071 meters (3,513 feet) in height, "Der Berg," complete with climbers and mountain goats, would have dwarfed the world's most famous simulated mountain, Disneyland's Matterhorn roller coaster, as well as the city's landscape.

Ultimately, Tigges' computer-generated magic mountain remained precisely that. However, in a surprise twist in the architectural competition to determine the future of the park, the results of which were announced last week, an artificial mountain for climbers has been proposed as part of the award-winning design for the park. The city has given the thumbs-up to a design by Dutch architect Eelco Hooftman for a mountain in the park to be used by Alpine climbing enthusiasts. At 60 meters (around 197 feet), it may not be a Matterhorn, but it still has the potential to beat any of the capital city's existing puny climbing walls.

Construction on Hooftman's small mountain is expected to begin in 2013 as the park is transformed in part in preparation for the International Garden Festival, which is slated to take place at Tempelhof in the German capital in 2017. Landscape architect Hooftman's mountain is part of a larger design for the park that won the competition and was created together with British garden architects Gross.max and Sutherland Hussey Architects, who beat out 78 other designs for the honor.

Hiking and a Refuge for Wildlife

Daniel Reiser, project leader at Gross.max, says the mountain wouldn't be quite as dramatic as the sketch suggests. "On a site as big as Tempelhof, 60 meters is on a scale that you will barely notice," he told SPIEGEL ONLINE, noting that the artificial mountain would be roughly as high as Berlin's Siegessäule victory column.

In the draft design, Swiss actor Bruno Ganz can be seen looking over the city in an image taken from the Wim Wenders film "Wings of Desire." Topping the actual mountain will be a statue of legendary German naturalist and Berlin native son Alexander von Humboldt.

Reiser says the mountain will be open to climbers, with faces to scale both inside and out, given that, technically, it will actually be a building dressed up to look like a mountain. It will also likely include vegetation and be a habitat for the city's local birds and other wildlife.

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