Aerotropolis – Cities of the Future or a Fly-by-Night Idea?

Ian Smith
Vice President, Special Projects
thyssenkrupp, Hong Kong

Joel Garreau, author, observes, “The state-of-the-art transportation today is the automobile, the jet plane, and the networked computer. Because of the airport, it’s possible to imagine a world capital in a place that was once an absolute backwater;” a New York or a Tokyo appearing in an utterly improbable location, even in the desert. With demand for greater access, space, and less travel, many cities are seeking growth outside the traditional CBD – utilizing the airport to create an adjacent satellite city - the Aerotropolis.

An Aerotropolis is a sub-city where design, infrastructure, and economy are focused around the airport hub’s commercial core. The term was first used by New York artist Nicholas DeSantis, whose drawing of a skyscraper rooftop airport in the city was presented in Popular Science in November 1939, and recently re-emerged through the work of researchers John D. Kasarda. Some developers and economists claim that airports are one of the most potent developments in modern urban life. Having an Aerotropolis outside the terminal doors that mimics a capital city, and preserves the elements of access, convenience, aesthetics, safety, and a neighborhood environment, is attractive to travelers, residents, and governments alike. To deliver, it needs seamless connectivity, with vibrant retail shopping in the closest ring; hotels, office, and business centers in the second ring; and industrial facilities and logistics located in the outer ring. It is unlikely that the Aerotropolis is a “fly by night” proposition, as town planners see this as a way to reduce CBD crowding and infrastructure overload.