Author Greg Lindsay on the future of cities, globalization and DIA

Categories: Literature

When most people envision the future, they probably think about the awesome products we'll have to make our lives easier, but author Greg Lindsay is more concerned about how those products get to us. It's no secret most manufacturing has moved overseas, and with that move, a global economy has risen that won't be easy to step away from. Because of this, cities and airports have become intertwined in many places, and in Lindsay's new book, Aerotropolis, he describes the ways these cities could work. Lindsay will be on hand tomorrow night at the Tattered Cover to do a mini-lecture and answer questions, but we caught up with him on or own to clear up a few things first.

Westword: Can you start by just talking a little about the premise of the book?

Greg Lindsay: I wanted to write -- for lack of a better word -- a globalization book. What I find interesting is that most discussions of globalization are technology based; they talk about the internet and telecommunications. So when I set out to write a book about globalization, I wanted to look at the more physical side of it.

Eventually, I came across the work of John Kasarda, who twenty years before there was this large scale internet and everything else, decided that air travel was the key to the global economy; ergo, we'd build cities around airports.

As a description of how cities could evolve it's interesting. If you look at the history of American cities, airports went from being in the middle of nowhere to cities popping up around them. So he went and started to sketch a schematic for how we could build cities around them on purpose and has been selling them to governments around the world. It's not the best quality of life, but they're designed to do well in a global economy and create economic advantage.

It's sort of the urban coalescence of globalization as cities rise up around these places. It's literally master planning a city around an airport. Or in a larger scale, it's more about cities that have a relationship with other cities around the world. It's the notion of a new Silk road, which you can see in the form of air routes over Asia and the Middle East right now.

05 United_Airlines_europe_americas routes.jpg
WW: This sounds like an old coal company town in a way.

GL: To some extend, yeah. Humanity is officially an urban species -- more than half of all humans are living in cities now. I've seen reports that the urban fabric could double within fifty years, which means everything we have now would be built again.

The economist Paul Romer has come up with the idea of charter cities that are designed to create jobs. That's the whole point. And a lot of technology companies are getting behind this idea of the "smart city," built around their business. You're seeing corporations building cities designed for their needs. These aren't cities that are coming around organically or by architects -- these are people looking around and saying, "what can we build to accelerate the process?"

So you end up with cities where the starting point isn't, "How do we make this a great place to live?" but really, "How do we dial into the global economy?"

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