Refugee Housing

Berlin Needs to Grow Up

One of the hangars at the old Tempelhof airport slated to be used as a refugee home. Source: Kay Nietfeld/dpa
One of the hangars at the old Tempelhof airport slated to be used as a refugee home.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Migrants and refugees are flooding into Berlin, squeezing housing and potentially changing the appearance of the city forever.

  • Facts


    • People are increasingly wanting to live in the center of Berlin rather than its outskirts.
    • The city does not allow buildings with an eave height of greater than 22 meters (72ft).
    • Germany has around 2 million apartments standing empty.
  • Audio


  • Pdf

Arno Brandlhuber is an award-winning architect turned urban visionary. The 51-year-old has been involved in the building of several famous German landmarks, including the Neanderthal Museum in Neanderthal and the German Aerospace Centre laboratory building in Stuttgart.

Previously based in Cologne, he founded a studio in Berlin in 2006, perched atop a ruined building in the city center, which Mr. Brandlhuber built using a low-cost concrete construction method. Since 2003, he has also been a professor of architecture and urban research in Nuremberg.

More recently, Mr. Brandlhuber has become politically active, taking the city of Berlin to task over its housing policy and offering his own radical ideas about how to solve the city’s housing crisis. Berlin is currently experiencing a huge shortage of housing as more and more people move to the German capital, and refugees arrive in their thousands from the Middle East and Africa.


Mr. Brandlhuber, one of your ideas for relieving Berlin’s housing shortage is adding eight floors onto the top of the former Tempelhof airport terminal in central Berlin. Can you tell us more about that?

One of our old models mounted the Bikini Berlin shopping center on top of the airport building. The airport roof was actually planned to be a platform. It can carry thousands of people. And on top of that, you could build a total of 3,500 apartments on six to eight additional floors. That would be as much housing as had originally been planned for the area surrounding the airport complex.

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