July 22, 2010  |  permalink

“Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next” Available for Pre-Order on Amazon

Aerotropolis finally has a release date—March 8, 2011—and an Amazon page. Operators are standing by to take your pre-orders.

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July 22, 2010  |  permalink

David Harvey’s Urban Manifesto: Down With Suburbia; Down With Bloomberg’s New York


(Originally published on FastCompany.com.)

“New York? The whole damn place has been turned into a suburb,” sneered David Harvey, startling a roomful of New Yorkers who prided themselves on the same things he derided: the makeover of the city’s parks; the new network of bike lanes; the pedestrian malls along Broadway. “The feel of the city is losing its urbanity and being made okay for suburbanites to enjoy Times Square,” he continued, going on to condemn New York’s gentrification not on aesthetic or nostalgic grounds, but for being at the root of the financial crisis.

Harvey is having a bit of a moment in America, as much as any neo-Marxist economic geographer can. Earlier this month, his lucid explanation of the “econopocalyspe” (accompanied by animated whiteboard doodles) was a modest hit on Boing Boing. Richard Florida borrowed his concept of the “spatial fix”—the idea that capitalism gets bigger and badder every time it’s wriggles out of a crisis—for his latest book, The Great Reset. And Harvey’s own book-length explanation of the crisis, The Enigma of Capital is set to be published on these shores in September.

On Tuesday night in Manhattan, Harvey made a rare American appearance to discuss “experimental geography” and the role cities and suburbia played in the crisis. Starting from the idea of a “geographic unconscious”—“the way we think of space and time as ‘natural’ when they’re really constructed,”—Harvey blamed suburbia for brainwashing Americans into being good capitalists.

But the connections between urbanism and capitalism go deeper than that. In an essay published in New Left Review, he drew connections between Haussmann’s Paris, postwar America, gentrification and China’s instant cities. In each case, the construction efforts employed huge quantities of labor and required new forms of capital and credit, whether FHA mortgages or CDOs. In his estimation, China’s breakneck urbanization and the appetite for raw materials this creates is the only thing propping global capitalism up.

» Continue reading...

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July 22, 2010  |  permalink

Morning Links


• Marc Newson redesigns the airport check-in process to be painless. “Later this year, regular travelers will be able to get hold of a Q Bag Tag, an RFID-embedded luggage tag with permanent tracking number assigned to the owner, which stores information for each trip as well as forwarding instructions for lost baggage. A smart chip inside the new Q Card electronically waves frequent fliers through initial check-in to the Jetsonesque “Bag Drop injector.”“

• The first plane to fly on algae-based biofuel takes a spin at the Farnborough Air Show. “According to EADS (the maker of the Airbus), the higher energy content of the biofuel allows their Diamond Aircraft DA42 New Generation to use almost a half gallon less fuel per hour than it would on conventional, kerosene-based jet fuel. And the small aircraft does so without extensive engine modifications or sacrificing performance. Compared to Jet-A1 fuel, the exhaust from the algae fuel has 8 times less hydrocarbons as well as reduced nitrogen oxide and sulfur oxide emissions.”

• Suburbia was created as a safeguard against nuclear annihilation. “This is an unrecognized if not forgotten history of the roots of sprawl in the U.S. as a defensive measure. The outcome of the defense was similar to that of the attack it was meant to survive - a cratering of the cities.”

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July 18, 2010  |  permalink

Up in the Air, Olympic-style

30 Seconds with Jacques Rogge,” president of the International Olympic Committee:

Q. The world knows you for your presence at the Olympics. What do you do the rest of the time?

A. I would start working at close to 8 o’clock. My normal day would be being briefed about the world media, and I get the highlights of the day. Then I would have individual visits by many people visiting Lausanne. When this is done, it is about 7, 8 p.m., and I go home. The other part is traveling, because you need to have face time. There is no way you can run such an organization with just e-mails, videoconferencing or telephone calls.

Q. Do you keep track of how far you fly each year?

A. I don’t keep track. My secretary — because I asked her one day, how many planes do I take a year? — she said about 150 or 170. I know exactly how the interior of the cabin of every single manufactured plane is, and likewise when I wake up in a hotel, I know immediately whether it is a Hilton or a Marriott.

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July 18, 2010  |  permalink

London is Dubailand

When the thermometer hits 125 degrees in Dubai, Dubai moves to London:

For the mega-wealthy oil billionaire families of the Gulf states, summertime means central London. When temperatures at home hit 50 degrees, they flock to the capital for the cool weather, the thriving social scene and the shopping — especially at Harrods which is, rather neatly, now owned by the Qatari royal family’s investment arm.


Some keep summer houses in London — there are said to be more than 100 billionaire Saudi families with second homes in the Knightsbridge area alone — while others prefer out-of-town locations such as Bishops Avenue, Coombe Hill in Kingston and St George’s Hill in Weybridge.

They’ll go to the Derby, Royal Ascot and the Berkshire Festival of Falconry, which is sponsored by the Abu Dhabi-based Emirates Falconers’ Club and attended by His Highness Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan.

Otherwise, whole floors of hotels around Hyde Park — the Jumeirah Carlton Tower now owned by the famous Dubai group and the Four Seasons Hotel, owned by Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Al-Saud (who also owns the Savoy Hotel) — are block-booked.

During the days, the women have their drivers drop them in Hyde Park where they promenade around the Serpentine, stopping to soak up the coolness and cloudy skies on the benches or laying out on the grass in large circles with their friends. And then there’s shopping.

“Knightsbridge is London’s pop-up oasis,” London Evening Standard, July 14, 2010.

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July 11, 2010  |  permalink

Brazil’s World Cup Will Depend Entirely On Its Airports

...and if you’ve flown to Brazil lately, you’ll understand why they’re already freaking out:

It’s official. Brazil’s top three priorities ahead of the 2014 World Cup are airports, airports and airports. The head of Brazil’s organising committee told reporters in South Africa on Thursday that his country had to get a move on and upgrade its transport infrastructure in time for the 2014 competition.

“The three main priorities we have are airports, airports, airports,” said Ricardo Teixeira, the president of the Brazilian Football Confederation. Brazil plans to play games in 12 stadiums in 2014, more than in past tournaments because so many Brazilian cities were desperate to get involved in the prestigious competition.

But most of the host cities have airports that are too old and too small to cope with the estimated 600,000 fans who will fly to football’s spiritual home to take part in the month-long jamboree. Airports are more important for the 2014 competition than previous tournaments because distances between the host cities are massive and the country’s motorways are often atrocious.

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July 09, 2010  |  permalink

The Financial Times—“Dubai: A trade to ply”

From the lede:

Old Dubai” evokes the bustling area around the Creek, where the Gulf emirate’s commercial tradition began, with dhows plying their trade with eastern ports and merchants haggling in the souks.

But in the wake of a global financial crisis that hit the city-state hard, old Dubai has come to represent something deeper – a longing for a return to roots, to the basic businesses that transformed it from sleepy fishing village to flourishing port town.

Strategically located between Africa, the Middle East and Asia, Dubai has long thrived as a trade hub. Many residents now hark back to the Dubai they knew before the city became obsessed with real estate. The frenzied development of apartment blocks, malls and business parks dazzled the world – before the property market collapsed and, along with the impact of the global turbulence, left the emirate with more than $110bn (€87bn; £72bn) of debt.

Al Maktoum International Airport appears a neat case study of all this. It opened last week with a solitary runway and cargo terminal. Windswept desert stretches around the 140 sq km complex, dotted with camels and industrial estates. Rather like the seaport developments in the 1970s, the airport seems impossibly ambitious: within 20 years it plans to add four runways and four terminals to serve more passengers than London and Atlanta combined.

Sceptics only have to look across the desert littoral of Dubai, where clusters of half-constructed tower blocks stand as embarrassing monuments to the misguided belief that property booms can last forever. Yet the airport is a prime example of Dubai reverting to the sounder economic foundations of trade, aviation, tourism and logistics – its economic drivers before the doomed love affair with property began in 2003.

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July 08, 2010  |  permalink

Richard Branson on Owning Airlines While Saving The World

(Thanks to Wendy Perrin at Condé Nast Traveler for posing my question to Sir Richard.)

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July 06, 2010  |  permalink

Meet Jim Lynch, The Guy Who Takes His Pants Off At Security

It was only a matter of time before someone decided it wasn’t worth it removing their shoes, belt, wallet, and emptying their pockets while passing through an airport security checkpoint. Why not just strip to one’s skivvies—especially considering the new generation of x-ray scanners will do it for you anyway? This weekend, I met the guy who has.


Meet Jim Lynch—the caddie, artist and raconteur seen here in full Arnold Palmer-mode on the 4th of July. He’s also the first recorded case (as far as I know) of someone willingly stripping in the security line simply because it’s faster. He tried it for the first time a few weeks ago on a flight from Reno to Philadelphia following a long night at the roulette table. “I got tired of rearranging my pockets—my wallet, money clip, lighter, and cigarettes,” he said, “And after you put those in the tray, you take your belt off, so your pants are already kind of falling down. And afterwards, you’re just holding up the line.” Hungover, and deciding the hell with it, he just took his pants off—belt and all. He was wearing boxer-briefs underneath, and designer ones, too—a Paul Smith pair with helicopters on them that have since become his pair of lucky airport underwear.

“I got a good laugh from airport security about it—she said she had never seen that before. But it’s not like she told me I wasn’t allowed to take my pants off.” (Fortunately for him, he can pull it off.) He’s since repeated the tactic on flights to and from Texas, with no one stopping him yet. “Don’t tell anyone,” he warned me. “I don’t want this catching on.” Sorry Jim, the secret is out.

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July 01, 2010  |  permalink

The Surface Interview: What Moves Us

The new transport-themed issue of Surface includes an interview with me by editor-in-chief Dan Rubenstein, who found himself stranded in Milan the Icelandic volcano shut down European airspace in April. “I finally arrived home four days later,” he writes in his editor’s letter, “but the ordeal made me realize the fragility of modern life, especially when it comes to transportation and what to include in this first-ever Transport Issue. Capacity, flexibility, convenience: All these issues today are crucial.” Indeed. Below is the interview. His questions are in bold; my responses follow.

How are the emerging cities of today developing differently than those built during the age of rail and sail? The shape and design of any city isn’t defined in terms of distance, but time. It’s never been a question of how we’re willing to travel, but how quickly we can do it. The Italian physicist Cesare Marchetti offered a “one-hour rule” of human movement. When walking was our only option, cities were only six miles wide—just enough so you could walk from the edge to the center and back in an hour. This pattern is seen throughout in history, from ancient Athens to Los Angeles: the time we spend commuting has never changed, only our means of transportation has.

So what’s the state-of-the-art in transportation today? The Internet and the Boeing 747. Digitally, we can be everywhere at once, globally and locally, while air travel is our only means of actually moving on a global scale. But I think the reason there’s been a recent resurgence in traditional railroad cities like New York or Chicago or San Francisco (a port city) is because their most affluent inhabitants don’t have to move around as much locally. As members of the “creative class,” their work is done over the Internet. By and large, we no longer commute to factories.

China, on the other hand, is all about its factories. And because we still demand everything more or less overnight—witness everyone’s bellyaching over how long it took for their iPads to arrive—that means a lot of that stuff goes by air. China is in the midst of moving those factories to its western provinces, next to brand new airports. We’re committed to moving bits and they’re committed to shipping atoms.

If you want a glimpse of what the cities of the future might look like, you could do worse than New Songdo City, South Korea, an instant city under construction that’s the size of downtown Boston, with features borrowed from New York and other cities, all aimed at residents to drive nine miles to the airport to do business in China. It’s not something we’re used to seeing in the States.

Transport architecture is often used as a sign of growth or strength. Post-bubble, do you see this trend changing? The appetite for “iconic” architecture in the developing world appears to be endless. And if everything is “iconic,” then nothing is, Dubai being the perfect example. What Americans fail to realize about Dubai is that all of its neighbors have copied it. It’s less about national pride than “build it, and they will come.” They’re high-end tourist attractions. Abu Dhabi is building a Guggenheim branch by Frank Gehry, a Louvre by Jean Nouvel (in exchange for a $1 billion licensing fee), and another museum by Zaha Hadid. That’s on top of the NYU Abu Dhabi branch and the “zero-carbon” Masdar City. Why does it need all of this stuff? Because it saw how Dubai used spectacle to capture the world’s attention. And don’t forget that Dubai is a smaller than Columbus, Ohio.

Abu Dhabi is also spending tens of billions of dollars on its airport and national airline, Etihad, for a similar reason: to bring millions of people from around the world to a relative backwater. Beijing and Dubai didn’t build mega-terminals to impress people; they built because they need the space. We’re seeing places use a combination spectacle and transportation as weapons to make themselves famous and theoretically successful. Dubai built its airport before a school or a hospital.

What can we—who live in older cities like New York—can learn from the new ones? One of the underlying arguments in Aerotropolis is that we who live in older cities need to think hard about the tradeoffs between the urban fabric we love and pros¬perity. Sooner or later, there are consequences if you fail to fix the bones of your city; London’s Heathrow is the perfect example. Heathrow is slowly choking on its own congestion, hemorrhaging flights and con¬nections to the major airports on the Continent. Due of this, the Labour government wanted to build a third runway. Gordon Brown argued it was imperative to the city’s continued success as a financial center. His opponents disagreed, and the third runway is probably dead. What now? Well, the Conservatives want to build a high-speed rail network, which is great, except for the fact that if they put a train stop at Heathrow, traffic will likely go up, because it’ll be easier to catch a flight. And then what? Now that British Airways has merged with Spain’s national carrier Iberia, they plan to move connecting flights to Madrid, which means a lot of businesses might move there, at a time when the UK economy is stagnant. Do you want those jobs are not? Spain does. My point is that those of us who live in a New York or London can’t take it for granted that all we need is a Wi-Fi signal when it comes to infrastructure. We can choke on our own success, and someone is waiting to pick up the crown when we do. Are we willing to tear some things down and start over? Or, as the mayor of London has suggested, build a gigantic new airport in the Thames Estuary instead? There are no right answers.

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Greg Lindsay is a journalist, urbanist, futurist, and speaker. He is the director of applied research at NewCities and director of strategy at its mobility offshoot CoMotion.  He is also a partner at FutureMap, a geo-strategic advisory firm based in Singapore, a non-resident senior fellow of The Atlantic Council’s Foresight, Strategy, and Risks Initiative, and co-author of Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next.

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The Engine Room

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Now Arriving: A Connected Mobility Roadmap for Public Transport

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Why Every Business Should Start in a Co-Working Space

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Can the World’s Worst Traffic Problem Be Solved?

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Hacking The City

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HR Meets Data: How Your Boss Will Monitor You To Create The Quantified Workplace

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Which Contacts Should You Keep in Touch With? Let This Software Tell You

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5 Global Cities of the Future

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Cities on the Move

Medium  |  November 2014

Engineering Serendipity

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Sin City vs. SimCity

Harvard Business Review  |  October 2014

Workspaces That Move People

Inc.  |  April 2014

The Network Effect

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