… Not so long ago, airports were built near cities, and roads connected the one to the other. This pattern—the city in the center, the airport on the periphery— shaped life in the twentieth century, from the central city to exurban sprawl. Today, the ubiquity of jet travel, round-the-clock workdays, overnight shipping, and global business networks has turned the pattern inside out. Soon the airport will be at the center and the city will be built around it, the better to keep workers, suppliers, executives, and goods in touch with the global market. 

This is the aerotropolis: a combination of giant airport, planned city, shipping facility, and business hub. The aerotropolis approach to urban living is now reshaping life in Seoul and Amsterdam, in China and India, in Dallas and Washington, D.C. The aerotropolis is the frontier of the next phase of globalization, whether we like it or not …

Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with Author Greg Lindsay

Q: In a few sentences, what’s the central message of your book?

A: Successful cities have always been founded because of trade—from Ur to New York, these are places where people exchange goods, money and ideas. Meanwhile, the shape of cities has always been defined by transportation. Boston was built around its docks;,Chicago around the railroads, and Los Angeles around the car. And the world is poised to build literally hundreds of new cities as 3 billion urbanize over the next forty years. So where would you put a new city today? And how would a city in western China—historically the middle of nowhere—connect to the world? The answer is the airport. In a global economy, where trillions of dollars in goods and billions of people follow digital bits around the world, sooner or later we would end up building cities defined by their airports, because the only geography that matters vis economic geography. It sounds like science fiction, but it’s always been this way.

Q: What differentiates the aerotropolis from other commercially-centered visions of urban planning, like the suburban strip mall or Leavittown?

A: Those are examples of what you get when private developers are driving the agenda, which has been the case in American since post-WWII suburbia, at least. The places that are consciously looking to develop (or redevelop) the areas around their airports, like Detroit, or Amsterdam, or Beijing, have done a much better job about thinking regionally, about bringing public and private interests together, and trying to build something that makes sense from both an economic and urban planning standpoint, rather than just make a quick buck. A great example is Amsterdam, which built an entirely new business district called the Zuidas on its southern border with towers expressly designed for the Netherlands’ largest banks and other companies, along with housing, all centered on a train station that is six minutes from the airport. It’s a lot better than the alternative—exurbs lying forty miles from Phoenix, Arizona.

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