Source: adapted from aerotropolis.com.
Air transportation conveys more people and goods faster, farther than ever before. As a result, new urban forms are taking place around airports to form a cluster of activities related to passenger and cargo flows. Depending upon how this cluster of airport-centric activities is integrated (with many related to logistics), the terms “airport city” or “aerotropolis” can be applied.
- Airport city. An expansion of the conventional role of airports as mere transshipment locations for passengers and freight into a range of added value activities, particularly since air traffic has increased substantially across the world. This expansion is the outcome of the convergence of several commercial trends, including the need for airport authorities to find additional sources of income as airports are competing with other airports to attract scheduled passenger and cargo services. This is expanded by the growing integration of several economic sectors, especially high technology, with air transportation, which incites the search for affordable locations in the vicinity of airport terminals.
- Aerotropolis. In simplistic terms, an aerotropolis includes all the elements of an airport city, but in a more comprehensively planned framework. This framework includes a set of concentric rings of specific activities around the airport, starting with an inner zone of distribution centers, logistics complexes, and just-in-time manufacturers, then a ring of office parks, hotels, restaurants, and convention centers, and then still farther out a largely residential periphery home to those who make their livelihood in the aerotropolis. Cutting across all these rings are aerolanes, high capacity highways and rail lines providing access from ring to ring and to the rest of the metropolitan area within which an aerotropolis is set.
Airport cities and aerotropolis are competing at a global level, which commonly implies that their economy tends to be more linked to global process than regional ones. Dubai may one of be the best illustration of an aerotropolis planned from the ground up, but several Asian airports are also nuclei for this kind of development and even in the US and Europe a few examples can be found, including Dallas-Fort Worth International and Schiphol in Amsterdam. Several developing countries are advocating the development of aerotropolis around new airport projects or as a strategy to expand existing airport facilities to generate more income and attract added value activities. There is no denying the new importance of air transportation is a factor shaping the urban landscape and that is nowhere more in evidence than in and around the world’s large airports.