A bit of postmodern ruin porn and uplifting adaptive reuse ideas are provided in this post with a listing of those major abandoned commercial airports which no longer (or in some cases never did) see flights. Some, particularly Croydon, Kai Tak, Robert Mueller, and Stapleton airports have seen successful reuse, while others are slowly decaying or are in varying states of abandoned ruin.
Given the impressive and important history associated with some of these aerodromes – particularly Croydon (WWI, early aviators, and the Battle of Britain), Floyd Bennett (NYC’s first municipal airport), Manston (Battle of Britain), and Templehof (WWII and Berlin Airlift), it is surprising that more of these monuments to aviation history are not more fully preserved and protected as national historic sites or national landmarks. Sadly, in two cases (Nicosia and Yasser Arafat), strife and political unrest prevent these airports from being reopened and utilized.
Aviation led to a global transportation revolution during the 20th Century – hopefully, any reuse of culturally or historically important airports will include preservation of those elements that contributed to modern air travel. Additionally, remnant airport sites are often viable locations for planning positive redevelopment or for use as critical open space in densely populated urban regions. That being said, any redevelopment or reuse should carefully incorporate notable and recognizable aspects of the site’s aviation history – to do otherwise would be an unfortunate decision that neglects the role played by the airport in local/regional/state/or national transportation history.
- Bramble Airport on Montserrat – destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 1997.
- Old Chiang Rai Airport in Thailand – converted into a park.
- Ciudad Real International Airport near La Mancha, Spain – opened in 2009 and closed in 2012 due to Spain’s economic and fiscal crisis. Looks more like a site of an “un-real” zombie apocalypse than “real” or royal airport.
- Costa Azahar Airport near Castellon, Spain – completed construction in 2012, but never opened. UPDATE – Ryanair now operates three roundtrip flights per week to Costa Azahar from the UK – Thank you, Carlos.
- Croydon Airport near London, UK – closed in 1959 – portions of the airfield have been built upon over the years – Airport House (terminal building) still remains as a museum and visitor centre- see above.
- Durban International Airport, South Africa – closed and replaced in 2010 by King Shaka International Airport.
- Ellinikon (Hellinikon) International Airport near Athens, Greece – replaced in 2004 by Athens International Airport for the Summer Olympics – possibly being turned into a park.
- Floyd Bennett Field in New York City, New York, USA – a protected National Park Service site since 1972 within the Gateway National Recreation Area.
- Kai Tak International Airport in Hong Kong, China – closed in 1998 when the new Hong Kong International Airport opened – now the site of Kai Tak Runway Park, housing developments, and the Kai Tak Cruise Ship Terminal (great idea!). An excellent example of what can be done with a former airport in a dense urban setting.
- Manston International Airport in Kent, UK – closed in 2014 and potentially being redeveloped as a garden city, an air cargo operation, or a business park.
- Nicosia International Airport in Cyprus – closed in 1974 due to civil war.
- Robert Mueller Municipal Airport in Austin, Texas, USA – closed and replaced in 1999 by Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. The 711 acre site is in the process of being redeveloped as the pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use Mueller Community.
- Stapleton International Airport in Denver, Colorado, USA was closed in 1995 – replaced by Denver International Airport – and has been undergoing substantial redevelopment as the Stapleton community. Only the control tower remains standing today.
- Templehof International Airport in Berlin, Germany (see also photo at the top of the post) – once the world’s largest building and site of the historic 1961 Berlin Airlift, Templehof was closed in 2008, as the city is now served by Tegel, Schonefeld, and Brandenburg (2016) airports. The architecturally and historically significant facility is now used a public park.
- Yasser Arafat International Airport in Gaza, Palestine – closed since 2001 after an Israeli bomb attack and the runways being bulldozed.
UPDATE – Mirabel International Airport northwest of Montreal, Quebec, Canada ceased passenger operations in 2004, but is still utilized for cargo airline service and aircraft testing and development. Demolition of the passenger terminal is underway. Thank you, Yaron.