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Aerotropolis: the airport city debate


March 14, 2018. AASA news. Airports are traditionally built on the fringes of a city, usually surrounded by vacant land (or sparsely populated areas). The aerotropolis, an urban planning and development concept, is gaining popularity in Africa. This concept envisions city airports evolving into fully integrated airport cities: a place to live, work, study and play. 


The aerotropolis concept is the brainchild of Dr. John Kasarda, director of the Centre for Air Commerce at the University of North Carolina and author of Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next. He is involved in the KZN King Shaka International Airport project; the Riverfields development linked to OR Tambo International Airport in Gauteng; the Nelson Mandela Bay project; and the Cape Town International Airport project among others. 

International airline routes are the quintessential manifestation of 21st century globalization. They are our high-speed physical Internet, moving people and products quickly and efficiently over long distances. Airports are its routers, attracting time-critical, globally-oriented businesses of all types to their environs creating a new urban form – the Aerotropolis.
Dr. John Kasarda, author of Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next.

Watch the City of Ekurhuleni Aerotropolis video on YouTube:


Criticism of the aerotropolis concept

Criticism of the aerotropolis concept include: the destruction of ecosystems and the displacement of farming communities; loss of farmland and forests, excluding affected people and communities, and locking in high-carbon infrastructure for decades to come; questions about whether oil will stay relatively inexpensive and widely available in the future or whether a downturn in oil production will adversely affect airport cities; and overstating the number and types of goods that travel by air.

The aerotropolis provides physical infrastructure, along with the supporting regulatory framework, for turbocharging corporate globalisation. Heavy-handed, centralised planning of an unprecedented magnitude supports the relentless drive for corporate dominance and profits, resulting in widening inequalities, worsening poverty and ruination of ecosystems.
Rose Bridger, author of Plane Truth: Aviation’s Real Impact on People and the Environment

AASA will be sharing more SADC aerotropolis news and developments, with featured articles on African aerotropolis projects this year. Watch this space.

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