Aerotropolis by Greg Lindsay

We once built cities around harbors or railroad terminals, which led to the familiar shapes of Amsterdam, Venice, New York and Chicago. But the cities built to take advantage of a hyper-competitive global economy are taking shape around something else instead: the airport.


These cities have a name – the aerotropolis. They’re rising around China, India, and the Middle East as each region prepares to take its place on the world stage. They are to our era of instant gratification – the Instant Age – what terminal cities like downtown Chicago and Manhattan were to America’s Gilded Age in the latter half the 19th Century.

Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next explores how air travel and transportation are largely responsible for the shape and scope – and winners and losers – of globalization. It also examines how cities such as Hong Kong, Dallas, Detroit and Dubai are changing (or being built anew) to reflect the interests of corporations that effectively scattered pieces of themselves across the world, relying on the Internet and Airbus planes to tie themselves together.

But who are these places for? The companies that profit from marginally leaner operations? The leaders, each one a little more ruthless than the last, jockeying to land them? Or the planners, architects, and sages given carte blanche to raise islands from oceans and plant tarmac in desert? On sale now, Aerotropolis tells the story of how the Jet Age and the Net Age have given way to the Instant Age, and wonders what cities will be its offspring.

Praise for Aerotropolis:

“The days when we built our airports around cities now seem distant; in the new, mobile century, we build our cities around airports . . . Cities are becoming like airports–places to leave from more than to live in. I’d always sensed this, but it came home to me with almost shocking immediacy when I was reading the dazzling new book Aerotropolis. One of its authors, John F. Kasarda, is a business professor in North Carolina who flies from Amsterdam to Seoul preaching the gospel of building homes and businesses near airports. Co-author Greg Lindsay is a journalist who knows how to make Kasarda’s research racy while raising questions about the cost of living in midair . . . Aerotropolis points out that we can still address the oldest needs but in new and liberating ways.” –Pico Iyer, Time

“An odd, fascinating new book… an enthralling and only intermittently dogmatic tour of some of the gigantic, no-context sites that globalization has created, such as the all-night flower auction in Amsterdam that gets roses from Kenya to Chicago before they’ve wilted, the FoxConn factory in China where iPods and iPhones are made, and the mega-hospital Bumrungrad in Bangkok, which performs cut-rate major surgery on the uninsured from all over the world.” –Nicholas Lemann, The New Yorker

A “fascinating and important work . . . Aerotropolis follows in the tradition of works such as Edge City (1992) that blend jargon-free scholarship with shoe-leather reporting to tell readers why they’re living and working as they are . . . That Kasarda and Lindsay are onto something big seems beyond dispute.” –Paul M. Barrett, Bloomberg Businessweek

“I’d wager that the notion [of the aerotropolis] is about to occupy a little more real estate in the popular imagination. This book will no doubt do for airport cities what Joel Garreau and his Edge City did for suburban office parks and shopping malls two decades ago: It will relocate the center . . . The prospect sketched out in Aerotropolis–while slightly thrilling, as tectonic shifts often are–feels about as dispiriting as those warehouse zones clustered near the ends of runways. And it’s made all the more so by the realization that the authors are undoubtedly right.” – Wayne Curtis, The Wall Street Journal

“Lindsay sets out Kasarda’s arguments for the aerotropolis with a persuasive mix of data and exhaustive reporting on how the forces of global competition are re-shaping companies and cities worldwide. Companies such as Lenovo, the personal computer group, has a chief executive in Singapore, a chairman in North Carolina, and executives linked by Skype calls and e-mail. Amsterdam is already home to an aerotropolis that offers evidence of Kasarda’s central argument: more and more jobs depend on shipping light but valuable goods – from iPhones to pharmaceuticals – by air.” –Pilita Clark, The Financial Times

“In Aerotropolis, John Kasarda of the University of North Carolina and his co-author, Greg Lindsay, convincingly put the airport at the centre of modern urban life.” – The Economist

“Lindsay takes us deep inside the Dutch flower market. He allows us to travel through booming Indian and Chinese cities, witness the rise of FedEx, UPS, Abu Dhabi, and Singapore. It’s an insightful, lavishly researched account, full of the micro-data of interconnectedness: the far-flung factories that produce our computers and flat-screen televisions, the state of the art hospitals in Thailand angling for Western customers priced out of the American health care system.” –Casey Walker, The Los Angeles Review of Books

“This is a big and often wobbly book; like a giant jet heading down the runway, it does its share of shaking and rattling. But once it gets airborne, the flying is largely smooth and the views are a dazzlement. High-Def visions of the future always run the risk of a smug certainty, and Aerotropolis does suffer from that barreling conviction. But it is ably researched and creatively constructed, a prismatic display of the future of the global economy through a sharp and revealing new lens. It makes the mind travel.”  –Adam Hanft, The Barnes & Noble Review

“Greg Lindsay has thoroughly investigated the key aerotropoli and the corporate and city players involved with them. His writing is clear and assiduously detailed, and his chapters on China are particularly thought-provoking. This book will become required reading for economists, business studies students, architects, urban planners, sociologists – and more than a few novelists and essayists.” – Jay Merrick, The Independent

“The closest thing to a real-world vision to rival that of [H. G.] Wells… a mind-expanding ride that reminds us, once again, that humanity needs no apocalypse to reinvent itself.” – Thomas P.M. Barnett, World Politics Review

“Thanks to the manifold effects of modern aviation, earth and sky are merging in our world faster and more thoroughly than most people know. But you won’t be most people after reading Aerotropolis. Throw out your old atlas. The new version is here.” – Walter Kirn, author of Up in the Air.
“Very few people realize how profoundly air transport is changing our cities, our economies, our social systems, and our systems of governance. If you want to be way ahead of the curve in understanding one of the most important drivers of change for the 21st century, read this book.” - Paul Romer, Senior Fellow Stanford Insitute for Economic Policy Research; founder of Charter Cities.

Aerotropolis redraws the world map, using air routes to trace the new connections and competition between mega-regions that will shape the geography of the Great Reset. This lively, thought-provoking book is must reading for anyone interested in how and where we will live and work in a truly global era.” - Richard Florida, director of the Martin Prosperity Institute, University of Toronto and author of The Great Reset.

“A fascinating window into the complex emergent urban future. This book is an extremely sophisticated, often devastatingly witty and ironic, interpretation of what is possible over the next two decades. It is not science fiction. It is science and technology in action. The authors have one foot firmly planted in the possible and foreseeable.” – Saskia Sassen, Professor, Columbia University, author of Territory, Authority, Rights.

“A wheels-up, clear-eyed, as-it-happens dispatch of the world being remapped by our just-in-time, frequent-flying, what-time-is-this-place society.  An essential guide to the 21st century.” – Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us).

Aerotropolis presents a radical, futuristic vision of a world where we build our cities around airports rather than the reverse. This book ties together urbanism, global economics, international relations, sociology, and insights from adventures in places that aren’t even on the map yet to present a plausible new paradigm for understanding how we relate to the skies. Perhaps the most compelling book on globalization in years.” - Parag Khanna, Senior Fellow, New America Foundation, and author of How to Run the World.

Aerotropolis comprehensively explains the enormous effects modern aviation has on cities and countries around the world. It is a unique resource.” - Frederick W. Smith, chairman and CEO, FedEx Corporation.

“Fascinating… their case studies of failures, successes and known unknowns are music to a logistician’s ears: Why, for instance, should so much air traffic now pass through the Persian Gulf? Because the emirates are blank slates for the experiment, and, as one Abu Dhabi–based technologist says, “because we can fly nineteen hours nonstop now, we’re able to reach any city in the world from here.” The brave new world is on the way, and it’s coming in by air.” - Kirkus Reviews.

“Highly recommended.”  - Library Journal.

Greg Lindsay is available to speak about the aerotropolis and other instant cities. Email him directly to schedule events. A list of upcoming and past events is available here.

About Greg Lindsay

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Greg Lindsay is a generalist, urbanist, futurist, and speaker. He is a non-resident senior fellow of the Arizona State University Threatcasting Lab, a non-resident senior fellow of MIT’s Future Urban Collectives Lab, and a non-resident senior fellow of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Strategy Initiative. He was the founding chief communications officer of Climate Alpha and remains a senior advisor. Previously, he was an urban tech fellow at Cornell Tech’s Jacobs Institute, where he explored the implications of AI and augmented reality at urban scale.

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