When thinking about the interplay and dependencies of urban life and mobility, the airport amongst all other typologies of transportation buildings has inherently maintained autonomy from general perceptions of urbanity and still seems incompatible with ideas of metropolitan life given its typically exurban location and hermetic nature. In the last ten years however, the airport’s lack of urban qualities and interaction with the city has triggered airport developments that attempt to establish urban attributes through the airports’ sheer size and increasing levels of services and amenities. Although this urbanity remains incomplete today and cannot be seen as a surrogate for traditional city life, the airport’s simulation of urbanity by the introduction or broadening of city-specific and previously airport-extrinsic programs is able to generate a novel form of urbanity, a transient urbanity that is generated by the thousands of travelers in constant motion compacted into the footprint of the airport. Whereas this urbanity necessitates an increase in what has always been an important part of the airports’ amenities and services (hospitality, business, retail, entertainment), these functions – augmented by programs that are not primarily related to the key functions of the airport – reach a new density level in recent developments and generate a stylized form of metropolitan life inside the airport.
The densification effects of transient urbanity can also be witnessed within the airport’s surroundings that nowadays often become new multifunctional, sought-after city districts with high-technology, industrial and business parks, shopping malls, residential complexes and other infrastructures that have a regional reach and often rival the traditional city centers. The concept of transient urbanity is is produced despite the airports’ total disassociation and seclusion from urban entities. Particularly interesting is that the airport’s notion of urbanism and metropolitan lifestyle is a global one, since each airport is part of the polycentric network of international hubs and nodes.
In my view, transient urbanity is the ultimate expression of the global life and travel behaviors of contemporary society, generated by society’s desire to extend mobility and movement. Over time, this mobility-based urbanity could become the breeding ground for the emergence of a completely new generation and typology of transportation buildings and give rise to a new form of mobility-driven urbanism that could reshape the relationship between city and mobility in the 21st century through the airport in a similarly profound way as did the railway and the automobile in the 20th century, even without having direct repercussions on the city.
For me it is intriguing that jet aviation and airports, though considerably nascent phenomena could trigger such developments. Thus this website is dedicated to the search of transient urbanity in today’s aerotropoli.