Cities In flight

In Aerotropolis, authors Kasarda and Lindsay chart the growth of the air-connected megapolis and build a map of the global city of tomorrow
Cities In flight
Cities In flight

A&nbspfew years ago, on an Outlook Traveller&nbspassignment, I was bewildered and awed by Kazakhstan&rsquos new capital-in-progress, Astana, a bizarre, grand, SimCity-like, Dubai-dwarfing project of giant buildings, wide boulevards, dubious monuments and megalithic aquariums. I thought it was Babylon returned after millennia, but it&rsquos only part of a global movement, a future aerotropolis, a new breed of airport-centric cities that are springing up across the globe.

In Aerotropolis, authors Kasarda (who coined the term) and Lindsay chart the growth of the air-connected megapolis and build a map of the global city of tomorrow. The idea of the new-age business city is something we&rsquore seeing everywhere in India  &mdash the proliferation of malls, newly developed housing and office districts for corporate frequent-flyers, multiplexes and restaurants has been our country&rsquos story for the last decade, a source of pride as well as horror. Bangalore and New Delhi are mentioned frequently in this book &mdash mostly as afterthoughts following lists of Chinese and Korean cities &mdash as examples of the new forces striving for space in the fast, frictionless, wi-fi-enabled global economy.

The growth of cities has always depended on cutting-edge transport possibilities of the time &mdash trade routes via roads, ports, great railroad cities, and then airport-supported transcontinental business centres. A lot of today&rsquos biggest cities have been airport-led for years, so why is the aerotropolis idea new in any way It&rsquos because the idea is not just one of an airport as an engine of progress, but a planned city with the airport as its actual centre, a hub around which the whole city is built from scratch. Starting with the example of Korea&rsquos Songdo, to be completed in 2015, the authors expand on the notion with plenty of urban planning-guru theory (Kasarda) and anecdotes and interviews from across the world (Lindsay). There&rsquos a forward-looking, frontier-shifting enthusiasm that runs through the book, as it speaks of the hundreds of aerotropoli that will mushroom one day in China. These clean, green, efficient, transport-oriented new hubs of commerce that will possibly turn today&rsquos New Yorks into relics like the city I was born in, Kolkata. There is no greater proof of the irrelevance of this once-upon-a-time cosmopolitan hub in the global scheme of things than its shabby, struggling airport.

Despite all the authors&rsquo energy, it&rsquos quite hard to imagine that the world&rsquos great cities, no matter how overcrowded and clunky, will ever be usurped by these new business centres and their accompanying &lsquorelovilles&rsquo&mdash uniform, anonymous housing complexes where business people live for a few months while on assignments where &ldquohomes&hellip office parks and even cities become disposable&rdquo. But then, the world is dotted with the ruins of glorious cities that thought they would stand forever.

Aerotropolis&nbspis an excellent work of pop economics and an insightful look into the way goods and people whiz across the globe to bring us all the things we take for granted in our homes, wherever those are. I would never want to live in one, but that&rsquos irrelevant.

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