Showcasing the spirit of Berlin

The opening of the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport Willy Brandy (pictured above and below) in June will be a historic moment for aviation in the German capital. In 1990, Germany was reunited as a single country, with a newly reunited Berlin reinstated as its capital. But it has taken more than 20 years for air traffic at the city’s three airports (two of which, Tegel and Schoenefeld, are still fully operational) to come under one roof. That will happen with the opening of the new facility in just over four months.

It’s been an immensely exciting project for many of those involved, not least the commercial management team headed by Dr. Norbert Minhorst. They have grabbed the opportunity to create something vibrant and different on this greenfield site, including a 9,000sq m retail plaza at its heart.

What is perhaps most striking is the emphasis that airport management puts on recreating what they call “the flair of Berlin” at the new location.

Many airport managers pay lip service to the idea of a Sense of Place – where the local city or region is represented and even recreated through design and services – but that’s certainly not the case in Berlin.

Over a quarter of the new retail tenants will present typical concepts from the Berlin and Brandenburg region. The new names include Fassbender & Rausch, an Ampelmann store, a museum shop run by Freunde der Preussischen Schlösser und Gärten (Friends of Prussian Castles and Gardens), and local specialities from the Spreewald region.

In food & beverage the proportion of local and regional concepts is even higher, at around half of all tenancies.

And one senses the pride that management takes in making those decisions to appoint local names and helping them to adapt their ideas and styles to the airport market.

(Photos: Berlin Airports: Bjorn Rolle)

Minhorst says: “We wanted to make a clear statement that ‘this is Berlin’. We want people to have a clear feeling that they are departing from Berlin, not anywhere else. So creating a regional flavour with tenants from Berlin and from Brandenburg was important.

“We spent a lot of time talking to local companies about how we could bring them into the airport environment, mainly in food & beverage, but also in fashion, children’s goods and confectionery retail. And each of these sectors is represented through local partners.

“The same feel applies to the terminal building. The architect designed it so it looks like a piece of Brandenburg, and there are even similarities with the new National Gallery in Berlin. The terminal and also the space around it are closely tied with the region.”

Taking that approach wasn’t an easy decision. Berlin, after all, sees itself as a global city, with aspirations to challenge other German (namely Frankfurt and Munich) and European airports for market leadership in the years ahead. But that goal was superseded by a choice to showcase the best of Brandenburg.

Knowing Berlin as one of Europe’s most diverse, liberal and exciting cities, we hope that decision is vindicated, and that its values are reflected in the offer when the new airport opens.

As always with a new airport or terminal opening, we intend to be among the first to visit, in this case partly to test out the local delicacies. Anyone for Eisbein or Boulette?

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