aerotropolis-rendering

The Aerotropolis: Will the Cities of the Future be Giant Airports?

To most people, building an entire city around an airport probably seems like a terrible idea. First of all, airports just aren’t fun — especially in the US, they’re irritating places and filled with never-ending lines, over-priced food, and irascible TSA agents. And that’s to say nothing of the pat downs. Second of all, they’re usually sprawling, aesthetically offensive, and loud — most cities go to good lengths to relegate its airport to the outskirts for a reason.

So why does John D. Kasarda, a University of North Carolina business-school professor, author and consultant, think that the cities of the future will be built around airports? Why does Kasarda insist that today’s successful metropolises will become tomorrow’s aerotropolises?

It really boils down to a single idea: he believes that cities with major airports and air-shipping capacity will become the next great port cities in coming years, and that cities can flourish if they’re built with the aim of producing and moving air freight. Kasarda describes his vision in an upcoming book, Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next. According to Metropolis magazine (which reviews the book here), an aerotropolis goes something like this:

It’s a city that’s built around an airport, the bigger the better, with factories and/or traders, both dependent on air freight, close by, followed by a ring of malls and hotels, followed by a ring of residential neighborhoods. The airport isn’t an annoyance, located as far out of the way as possible, but the city’s heart, its raison d’être.

And it looks something like this:

We already have a few cities in the United States that roughly adhere to this model — Memphis, our nation’s major FedEx hub, and Seattle, the home of Boeing. But as the book notes, the idea is really gaining ground in the place you’d expect, the place where giant cities are being built before our eyes at feverish rates. China, of course: “The aerotropolis phenomenon … is happening with a vengeance in Asia. China, of course, is currently building scores of airports, many intended to shift economic activity away from the factory-clogged Pearl River Delta and to its isolated western cities.”


Aerotropolis planned for Wuhan, China

On its face, the concept of the aerotropolis seems like a solid, adequately ambitious vision for the cities of the future — yet it’s anything but. Metropolis pokes a few holes in the economic theory behind the concept, pointing out that aerotropolises will essentially be glorified company towns, whose economies are pegged to the corporations that produce goods and ship them out there. If the industry wired to the air freight infrastructure declines, so does the city, and we’ve got a bunch of futuristic Detroits on our hands.

While the vision of a city based around an airport may seem novel, there are such aerotropolises already in existence, like Ecuador’s capital, Quito (pictured above) — and it’s considered one of the most dangerous airports in the world due to the difficulty of landing planes there (it’s also at a high elevation). Especially with our nation’s aging fleet of 747s, I’m not sure how enthusiastic we should be about putting airports in the middle of our major cities — the design inherently leaves quite a lot vulnerable to human error.

But that’s really just a quibble — the real reason that aerotropolises aren’t feasible is that they simply don’t look far enough ahead. Much of smart money is now arguing that planes, as a means of commercial transportation and moving freight, are on their way out — jet fuel is already extremely expensive, and its fluctuating costs make our airlines dependent on federal subsidies to stay afloat. Airlines are already on shaky ground, seeing year after year of declining profits — as oil grows scarcer, and with no alternative fuel (algae, biomass) approaching viability, it appears we’ll soon be looking for alternative means of transporting goods and taking vacations. Which means the cities of the future are more likely to run on high speed rail than airplanes.

So until we find a more sustainable way to power our planes, it’s unlikely we’ll see too many city planners commit to the vision of the aerotropolis.

Follow the Utopianist on Twitter and Facebook.

Image: PSFK, Metropolis

About Brian Merchant

Brian Merchant is a founding editor of the Utopianist.. When he's not helming the Utopianist, he is TreeHugger's politics writer, contributes the Getting Samy Out of Burma column to GOOD.is, and freelances for the likes of Salon and Paste. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

51 thoughts on “The Aerotropolis: Will the Cities of the Future be Giant Airports?

  1. Not only has Travis Henry hit a brick wall as a basketball
    player, they have failed from being a lawful citizen, he’s got failed in being a offer force like
    a father, being a role type, as a economic provider
    to prospects children, they have failed like a mate in order
    to at least Twelve women, nevertheless, there are records that he is operating to another female and they want to avoid
    any little ones If it is a good payday loan company they will be within good status with the Eee if they do not possess
    the BBBOnline Stability Program stamp on it next
    don’t get a loan using that company you dont want to become one
    more victim without way of recuperation your seems
    to lose because the organization chooses to coat behind it can be illegal routines
    and still robbing from hard working people who are insecure because of a few financial difficulties and hardships

  2. 994367 491328Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive read anything in this way before. So nice to locate somebody by original thoughts on this subject. realy thanks for beginning this up. this fabulous website is one thing that is needed on the internet, a person with a bit of originality. beneficial project for bringing a new challenge towards internet! 694333

  3. 692725 656161I like what you guys are up too. Such smart work and reporting! Carry on the superb works guys Ive incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it will improve the value of my website 909365

  4. 33930 643336Whoah this blog is magnificent i truly like reading your articles. Keep up the great paintings! You realize, lots of persons are searching round for this info, you could aid them greatly. 779600

  5. On the other hand, those with a company pension, virtually any state and federal pension, military
    authorities and fireplace pension and also teacher type of pension can take
    advantage of old age loans to get a lump sum premium So what and when would a home developer work with this loan intended for

  6. 26387 283460Thanks for providing such a terrific post, it was exceptional and quite informative. It is my 1st time that I check out here. I identified a great deal of informative stuff within your post. Maintain it up. Thank you. 318111

  7. 206623 608214Should you happen to significant fortunate folks forms, referring by natural indicates, in addition you catch the attention of some sort of envy in consideration of those types the other campers surrounding you which have tough times about this topic. awnings 704876

  8. 25646 823533I havent checked in here for some time because I thought it was finding boring, but the last couple of posts are genuinely very good quality so I guess Ill add you back to my day-to-day bloglist. You deserve it my friend. insurance guides 876423

  9. Hi, i read your blog occasionally and i own a similar one and i was just curious if you get a lot of spam remarks? If so how do you reduce it, any plugin or anything you can advise? I get so much lately it?s driving me mad so any assistance is very much appreciated.

  10. My developer is trying to persuade me to move to .net from PHP. I have always disliked the idea because of the costs. But he?s tryiong none the less. I?ve been using Movable-type on various websites for about a year and am nervous about switching to another platform. I have heard great things about blogengine.net. Is there a way I can transfer all my wordpress content into it? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  11. Link exchange is nothing else except it is simply placing the other person’s web
    site link on your page at proper place and other person will also do similar in favor of you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *