10 July 2011

"Aerotropolis - The Way We'll Live Next" by John Kasarda and Greg Lindsay

I had expected that this book would be more of an academic work than what it is - largely one of business journalism - but it is well worth a read nonetheless.

Aerotropolis gives a good picture of the role that civil aviation is now playing in globalisation, and how airports have become central to modern economies and urban development.

Featured in the book are developments around:

  • Incheon (ICN) - where a new city, Songdo, is being built
  • Los Angeles (LAX) - where the airport had not been supported
  • Dulles (IAD) - near Washington DC in a wealthy and growing part of Virginia
  • Chicago (ORD) - where there were plans for an additional airport
  • Memphis (MEM) and Louisville (SDF) - hubs for FedEx and UPS respectively
  • Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) - hub for American Airlines
  • Detroit (DTW) - second hub for Delta with links to Asia and looking to build a Detroit Region Aerotropolis
  • Denver (DEN) - where a completely new airport was opened
  • Amsterdam (AMS) - with its associated flower market
  • Dubai (DXB), Abu Dhabi (AUH) and Doha (DOH) - with their competing global ambitions
  • Bangkok (BKK) - where a new airport has been built on a swamp
  • Hong Kong (HKG), Guangzhou (CAN) and Shenzhen (SZX) - vital to the success of manufacturing in the Pearl River Delta

For me, the book's coverage of developments in China was the most interesting, perhaps because it was the least familiar.

Memorable concepts from the book include:

  • "Kasarda's Law of Connectivity: every technology meant to circumvent distances electronically ... will only stoke our desire to transverse [distance] ourselves."
  • "Individual companies don't compete. Supply chains compete. Networks and systems compete."
  • Marchetti's Constant

One piece of advice that is actually included late in the book. Use Google Earth while reading "Aerotropolis" to get an idea of the lie of the land around the airports being referred to.

Reviews of the book have appeared in:

It is clear that civil aviation in general and the future that Kasarda outlines have their sceptics and this book is somewhat provocative.

An earlier 1 July 2006 article, Rise of the Aerotropolis, on the concept by Greg Lindsay appeared in Fast Company.

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