Cologne: Slider
© Philipp Robien

Preserved in time


Operations ceased at Cologne’s first airport in 1939, never to resume again. A photography project showcases the building’s timeless architecture.


Cologne: reception hall

Bright and elegant: the reception hall inside

© Philipp Robien
Cologne: control tower

The control tower at Cologne-Butzweilerhof airport ...

© Philipp Robien
Cologne: brass crane

... and brass crane on the doors of the arrival hall bear witness to Lufthansa history

© Philipp Robien
Cologne: Airport

Photographer Philipp Robien says he "turned on every single light the airport had"

© Philipp Robien
Cologne: Reception hall

1930s style: the reception hall, as it looked back then, right down to the last detail

© Philipp Robien

Gazing at Butzweilerhof Airport through the viewfinder, Philipp Robien says he “felt chills running up and down his spine.” Not because of the cold that March evening in Cologne but “because every window was lit up, every building illuminated – just for that one moment.” Robien, 30, photographed Cologne’s first airport for a student project in 2015/2016. Now, his images have been published in a book. They tell the story of what was once Germany’s biggest airport (after Tempelhof in Berlin), its architecture reflecting the pathos of the 1930s but clearly also influenced by Modernist aesthetic of the previous decade. The “aviation hub of the West” was also an important center for Lufthansa operations, and the crane emblem still adorns the doors of the reception hall. But in 1939, civil aviation ceased here and the airlines never returned. International operations resumed instead at Cologne-Wahn Airport in 1950, and from 1955, they also included Lufthansa flights. So the “Butz” (Butzweilerhof Airport) stayed as it has been left, as if locked in a time capsule. But Robien’s images already document history. Just recently, the complex was given a new lease on life as a vintage car center, complete with restaurants and a hotel.

Cologne: Diagram

Once upon a time, scheduled flights took off from Cologne's "aviation hub of the West", for other German cities as well as London, Paris and Moscow