Q+A: What does the design and layout of an airport reveal about a city?

Nov 17 • Q+A, Transportation • 2354 Views • No Comments on Q+A: What does the design and layout of an airport reveal about a city?




Michael McDonald is a Senior Principal with Kasian Architecture Interior Design and Planning Ltd. Awarded the National Professional Fraternity for Architecture and Allied Arts’ Alpha Rho Chi medal for leadership, Michael is recognized for his strong design, organizational, and communication skills:


We’ve been on the move since the beginning of time. Airports are about the story of people and transportation…one hardly exists without the other. Unlike a church or a school, airports are a new building type and more and more they are driving the way we live in cities.


Transportation has always had a powerful influence on shaping patterns of city growth. Walking cities like Rome or Delhi have a very different experience than Los Angeles; in Los Angeles, cars, roads and networks of highways shape the city. Cities are created around the transportation of the time. And now, here in the 21st century, our cities are in transformation again and their growth will be highly influenced by airports and accessibility.


Many airports, like Dallas, Fort Worth, Denver and a great example closer to home, Edmonton, were all built on the edges of the city. But we are rethinking this… people choose to live in the city for connectivity and airports have the potential to take this one step further in this era of globalization. No longer is it location, location, location now it is accessibility, accessibility, accessibility.


Now what we are starting to see is that airport design doesn’t reflect the city, but the city is starting to look to the airport. An aerotropolis concept has been proposed for Taiwan’s international airport – a new city created around state of the art of transportation of the time – business parks, exhibition centers, medical and wellness clusters, sports and recreation, logistic park, manufacturing, residential, hotels, retail, green spaces and intermodal transportation linking the aerotropolis to regional transportation systems.


Like Taiwan, Schiphol airport in Amsterdam also set out to create an aerotropolis. Building from the original military airbase, the Schiphol real estate company set out to build a city centered around the airport. Dutch planners had a simple philosophy: “the airport leaves the city; the city follows the airport; the airport becomes a city” and a city it has become. The aerotropolis at Schiphol has created 200,000 jobs and the trade center commands the highest rents in the Netherlands.


21st century airports will be a network of aerotropolis cities and world aviation hubs interconnecting people on a global scale. Cities outgrow their shape and explode into new ones when they are presented with new opportunities – like a new form of transportation.  Access to aviation has reformed our thinking about cities.


So what do you think?

What does the design and layout of an airport reveal about a city?


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