Monday, February 28, 2011

Cities in the Sky

Interesting piece in Saturday's WSJ on the rise of the Aerotropolis--The Airport-Based Global City of Tomorrow:

Thanks to the jet engine, Dubai has been able to transform itself from a backwater into a perfectly positioned hub for half of the planet's population. It now has more in common with Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangalore than with Saudi Arabia next door. It is a textbook example of an aerotropolis, which can be narrowly defined as a city planned around its airport or, more broadly, as a city less connected to its land-bound neighbors than to its peers thousands of miles away. The ideal aerotropolis is an amalgam of made-to-order office parks, convention hotels, cargo complexes and even factories, which in some cases line the runways. It is a pure node in a global network whose fast-moving packets are people and goods instead of data. And it is the future of the global city.

This may come as a surprise to Americans, many of whom have had it with both flying and globalization and would prefer a life that's slower and more local. In the wake of the financial crisis, the bywords for the future have often been caution and sustainability. But there is no resisting the relentless, ongoing expansion of the world economy, and the aerotropolis—fast, efficient, far-reaching and filled with generic "world-class" architecture—embodies it. In places like Dubai, China, India and parts of Africa, cities are being built from scratch around air travel, the better to plug into the global trade lanes overhead.

More than ever, a city's airport(s) and the airlines that connect it with the rest of the world is a critical element in its potential for future viability.