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"Aerotropolis"??"the New Basis for City Design?

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Songdo, Incheon takes quite a few cues from Manhattan. Its hundred-acre Central Park is modeled after NYC's Central Park. The 68-story Northeast Asia Trade Tower (top photo) in Songdo is the tallest skyscraper in South Korea, but not for long. Songdo plans for two 151-story towers (1,972 feet tall) joined together by three sky bridges (bottom rendering). It will be the tallest twin towers in the world when completed in 2014.


Building airports on the periphery of cities and connecting the two by roads has shaped life in the twentieth century. However, the ubiquity of jet travel, overnight air shipping and global business networks is starting to turn that pattern inside out. Soon, more airports will be at the “center,” with cities built around it to better keep workers, suppliers, executives and goods in touch with the global market.

This airport centrist planning is “aerotropolis,” a term coined by University of North Carolina Prof. John Kasarda, who sees it as the wave of the future for city development. Kasarda, with co-author journalist Greg Lindsay, elaborates and explores the concept in Aerotropolis: The Way We'll Live Next. An aerotropolis is a combination of giant airport, planned city, shipping facility and business hub. The aerotropolis approach to urban living, says Kasarda, is now reshaping life in Seoul and Amsterdam, in China and India, in the Middle East and Africa, and in Dallas and Washington, D.C. He asserts aerotropolis is the frontier of the next phase of globalization, whether we like it or not.

The book gives vivid and what to many may be disquieting looks at these instant cities in the making, while addressing the challenges they present to our environment, to our usual ways of life, and the opportunities they offer to those who embrace this new design paradigm.


The Incheon Grand Bridge connects the Incheon mainland directly to Incheon International Airport on Yeongjong Island. The bridge opened in October 2009. The connection has reduced travel time to the airport from the mainland by about an hour.


A New Aerotropolis

Incheon International Airport is on an island seven miles off the coast of Incheon, South Korea. Incheon, 40 miles from Seoul, is the country’s largest west coast seaport on the Yellow Sea. The airport opened in 2001 and is the largest airport in South Korea. In terms of aerotropolis, it is the center from which development grows. That development is the man-made island of Songdo International Business District (IBD), a 1,500-acre development just barely off the Incheon mainland and now connected seven miles distant to the airport via the Incheon Grand Bridge.

Songdo IBD is the new Hong Kong. It is being developed by Gale International and Korea's POSCO E&C (Fortune magazine ranked POSCO the “most admired steel company”), and designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox. The 100 million square foot master plan includes commercial office space, residences, retail shops and hotels, plus civic and cultural facilities.

Songdo takes quite a few cues from Manhattan. Its hundred-acre Central Park is modeled after NYC’s Central Park. There’s a mix of low-rise buidling, condos, offices, spires and South Korea's tallest building, the 68-story Northeast Asia Trade Tower.

Westerners may feel at home in Songdo, as the new two-story enclosed Riverstone, designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, will be South Korea's first international style shopping mall. Songdo also offers a Jack Nicklaus designed golf course.

This master-planned metropolis is being called a model of sustainable, city-scale development and innovation.  The first phase of the new international city opened in August 2009.


Aerotropoli: Definition: An “airport city.” The city has an airport at its hub and is surrounded by clusters of air-commerce-linked businesses. It’s analogous to central business districts (CBD) in the downtown areas of major cities. Essentially, the airport is the CBD.

Most aerotropoli are in Asia, however, these U.S. airports fit the aerotropoli model:

  • Chicago’s O’Hare
  • Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport
  • Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport and Willow Run Airport
  • Memphis International Airport
  • Newark Liberty International Airport
  • Washington Dulles International Airport

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November 13, 2019, 8:26 pm PDT

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