Maximilian Meisse

Tempelhof Airport - A Document of History

Works Bio
Main Entrance

This colossal piece of architecture is like a mirror of the presumptions and contradictions, the disasters and hopes of the 20th century. Tempelhof was, as the projected „world airport“, an expression of Hitler’s megalomania and, at the same time, the most modern airport of its day; Sir Norman Foster called it „the mother of all airports“. Its construction was begun in 1935, discontinued due to the war in 1941 and finished only in 1962. During the Cold War, Tempelhof was a military base for the American occupying and protecting power, a setting for the Berlin Airlift, a symbol for the will to survive of the free part of the city and finally a showcase for the glamour of West-Berlin from the 1950s to the 1970s.

Hermann Göring and Ernst Sagebiel, the airport’s architect, inspect the model, ca. 1938

With its many facets, Tempelhof is the ideal object for the photographer Maximilian Meisse. He is not only interested in the external shapes of façades and interiors, he traces the stories that lie behind, which means foremost: he is concerned with the human beings that conceived and populated this place – and who continue to be present, even though they are absent in the pictures.

The photographs, clear and lucid as they are, ask many questions. What is hidden behind those mighty walls? And how do these fit together: oppressive monumentality and precise, coherent architectural details; bold carrier systems in steel and concrete on the one hand and massive classicist stone façades on the other? Ernst Sagebiel, the building’s architect, lived in two worlds as well: before he began his activities for the Nazis with Göring’s ministry of aviation in 1933, he held a leading position in the office of Erich Mendelsohn and oversaw the construction of one of the icons of the International Style, the Columbushaus at Potsdamer Platz.

Aircrafts of the American Army during the Airlift, 1948

Meisse does not stop at the defensive-like outer appearance and the prestigious interiors. He goes beyond that, to the staircases, the deserted hotel rooms and down to the air-raid shelters. And he unveils the helpless attempts of the post-war period to hide the ideologically contaminated structure and to utilize it at the same time. As an example, the monumental entrance hall was shortened in its height by two thirds, and the area above the new ceiling, covered with precious travertine, served as a quarry for the repair of war damage and the completion of the check-in hall. And the 1950s and 1960s anti-classicist modernism of the restaurants and VIP lounges can’t hide its triviality and desolation.

When we roam through the building via these pictures we can, just like the photographer, only marvel, perhaps sometimes admire. Maximilian Meisse has even managed to capture the most recent volte in the airport’s history so rich in changes, although he could not foresee it when he took the picture: our last photograph shows the natural paradise of the quiet airfield which since its transformation into a true people’s park is named „Tempelhofer Freiheit“.

Please see Maximilian Meisse’s works in our exhibitions Constructivism, Mostly , Landscape, so Beautiful! and Just Photographs.


The photographs are available in three formats:

Size 30 x 45 cm, oak frame, with passepartout, 60 x 60 cm:  950 Euro

Size 54 x 81 cm, mounted on forex, oak frame, with passepartout, museum glass, 75,5 x 102 cm:  1.900 Euro

Size 130 x 200 cm, unframed, mounted behind acrylic glass (Diasec):  5.200 Euro



1969born in Kassel, lives and works in Berlin
1990-96studies in architecture at Stuttgart University and  ETH Zurich with Prof. Hans Kollhoff, diploma with Prof. Walter Maria Förderer
1997-98works at Ott + Stein graphic studio, Berlin
1998-2004works in various architectural offices, among others as project manager with jessenvollenweider architektur
2007-10teaching positions in Kassel and Cottbus
since 2004works as freelance photographer
commissions for architects, developers and journals
2017member Deutscher Werkbund


S: Solo show

2021Rom Bilder, Stiftung Neuhardenberg
2019Dream and Reality, Cosmos Architecture, Baukunstarchiv NRW, Dortmund
2018Photographic sketches, Deutscher Werkbund Berlin (S)
2016Change of Perspectives – Positions of contemporary architectural photography, Aedes Architecture Forum Berlin
2015Domestic Space 3, Galerie Zweigstelle Berlin
Ready Places Berlin 2000-2013, Carpentier Galerie, Berlin
2014Venetian Settings, Galerie f 75, Stuttgart (S)
2013Venetian Settings, Carpentier Galerie, Berlin (S)
2012Museumsinsel Berlin, Deutscher Sparkassen- und Giroverband, Berlin (S)
2011Tempelhof, Galerie f 75, Stuttgart (S)
Tempelhof, Henn Galerie, Munich (S)
2010Ready Places, Zentrale der Landesbank Berlin (S)
2008Tempelhof, Tammen Galerie, Berlin (S)


2019Reformblock Berlin, Wasmuth & Zahlen Verlag
2018Kassel, Wasmuth Verlag
2016Berlinkontinuum, Wasmuth Verlag
2014Ready Places Berlin, Ernst Wasmuth Verlag
2012Venetian Settings, Ernst Wasmuth Verlag
2011Museumsinsel Berlin, Ernst Wasmuth Verlag
2008Tempelhof, Ernst Wasmuth Verlag, nominated for the German award for photography books 2009