In Aerotropolis John Kasarda and Greg Lindsay suggest that the future lies with cities that are designed and built round airports. The airports provide a focus for business and jobs. Globalisation means frequent business travellers want easy connection between home and airport. Yet it may all be a utopian view whose time has passed.
The ideas in Aerotropolis are interesting and challenging. They are based on John Kasarda’s extensive academic, consulting and proselytising work. The book is structured around a series of case studies of airport and city development since commercial flight began. However the principal coverage is of the period since the Second World War with particular consideration of the use of the aerotropolis model as a vehicle for economic development in emerging markets.
Emerging markets have embraced the aerotropolis concept and have been able to put the ideas into practice. With their often autocratic political leadership combined with a lack of planning controls and existing infrastructure, they have not been as constrained as more economically developed democratic countries. Aerotropolis argues that global air travel, especially freight, has driven and supported globalisation.
Although in developed countries there is often fierce resistance to the growth of existing airports there are many who want to live close to major air travel hubs. They are not just the frequent business travellers who want to minimise time spent travelling between home and airport but also those for whom the Aerotropolis provides work and community.
Kasarda and Lindsay have clearly undertaken extensive research and are wholeheartedly committed to the aerotropolis model. The problem is they seem to feel that they need to put all in this book and are rather light on potential weaknesses of the concept. As a result, the anecdotes and arguments feel repetitive and mask the message. Aerotropolis lacks clarity in the development of its ideas; the arguments are buried in extraneous detail and consequently feel rather unstructured. It is a shame as there is much that is thought provoking even if it is a somewhat one-sided view. Aerotropolis ranges much more widely than the title suggests and also touches on globalisation, economic development and sustainability – the latter could be a major challenge for the model in a time of high fuel prices and rising demand for oil as supply starts to decline as peak oil is approached, or as some have suggested has already been passed. Aerotropolis does not really address how the airport-city will survive the end of low-cost air travel.
All in all Aerotropolis is not the easiest read but it is an interesting and thought provoking contribution to the debate on economic development and globalisation even if it is a somewhat one-sided and utopian view whose time may already be passing.
Aerotrooplis, The Way We’ll Live Next (2011, ISBN: 9781846141003) by Greg Lindsay and John Kasarda is published in paperback by Allen Lane, an imprint of Penguin, at £14.99.
John Kasarda is a professor at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina. He advises cities and countries development on the strategic and development opportunities of aerotropolis.
Greg Lindsay is a business write andan enthusiast for Kasarda’s ideas. He spent three weeks in ‘Airworld’ by living on aeroplanes and in airports yet never leaving to experience the city and country he was, nominally, visiting.