A UNC professor is molding the future of major cities.
In his new book, “Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next,” professor John Kasarda purports that cities should be built around airports, which he calls the “physical Internet.”
“The Internet cannot move a box — or a person,” said Kasarda, director of UNC’s Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise.
Kasarda said his theory represents the physical manifestation of a 21st century, globalized world that requires better transportation of people and products — and has influenced many airports already.
“It’s an airport-integrated economic region where businesses and travel-intensive workers locate to be in quick contact with their customers, partners, suppliers and markets around the country and world,” Kasarda said.
And the world has responded.
His idea has already taken hold in major cities like Dubai, Beijing and Frankfurt — and it nearly earned him a place on the cover of Time magazine, he said.
The earthquake in Japan took precedence on the cover, but the New York Times, The Economist and The Wall Street Journal have given his book attention as well.
Kasarda said he believes face-to-face interactions for major business transactions remain highly important despite a rise in electronic communication, giving the most connected places a competitive advantage. His theory, he said, applies to students, as well.
“Aviation affects students’ lives whether they get on a plane often or not, whether it is the blueberries on their cereal or the laptop they’re using. UNC is having an impact all over the world,” Kasarda said.
Europe and Asia have already embraced the importance of airport-based cities, recognizing them as primary infrastructure for the 21st century.
But not the United States, Kasarda said.
“Unfortunately, the United States tends to view airports as nuisances,“ Kasarda said.
Steve Appold, a research assistant professor at the institute, said he agrees that the aerotropolis is an overseas phenomenon with a future in the U.S.
“This is an idea whose time is coming,” he said.
As proof, Kasarda attributed the success of the Triangle area to its proximity to Raleigh-Durham International Airport, which has increased the region’s accessibility.
But Kasarda was not alone in the idea’s development.
The book was written in collaboration with Greg Lindsay, a journalist Kasarda began working with in 2006 on an article for Fast Company about the early theory for the aerotropolis.
Lindsay provided the on-the-ground perspective for the book by visiting airports around the world. He continues to visit airports for the project to this day.
Cindy Reifsnider, director of research services and knowledge management for the institute, organized several professors, undergraduates and graduate students to aid in the research process.
“The use of students gave flexibility and resources directly from UNC, and it gave students on-the-job opportunities — some even prepared research directly in the book,” she said.
The team tackled reports on various subjects ranging from the fastest growing urban areas and their relationships to airports, job trends and even the push for sustainability.
Kasarda said 70 airports around the world are now using the aerotropolis model, showing just how much of a global impact the project has created.
“We are imparting development around the world,” he said. “We are shaping urban development.”
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