x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Aerotropolis by John Kasarda and Greg Lindsay

Planes furnish a vision of the city of the future: a transport hub; a nexus of competing supply chains; a support system for an airport.

"Cities are always created around whatever the state-of-the-art transportation device is," said the journalist Joel Garreau. And globalisation runs on jet planes. Taken together, these premises furnish a vision of the city of the future: a transport hub; a nexus of competing supply chains; a support system for an airport.

John Kasarda, a sociologist cum business guru at the University of North Carolina, is the prophet of this rather bleak aerotropolitan age. In Greg Lindsay he finds an excitable amanuensis. Lindsay spouts cant phrases and garbled metaphors ("The Econ 101 approach of 'I'm a Mac' vs. 'I'm a PC' doesn't hold water anymore" he declares at one point). All the same, the case that emerges looks solid. Indisputable, even: cities that fit Kasarda's model are already springing up across Asia by the hundred.

Aerotropolis spends too long on US examples, and local readers may prefer to skip to the thoughtful chapter on the UAE. Emirates Airline is a "strategic arm of state", Lindsay announces, wielded to make Dubai the "hub of hubs". The peculiar character of Dubai's wider development is seen to support this goal. As commentary from a visiting reporter, it certainly beats the old "dark side of the dream" routine.

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