From Airport City to Airport Region? the 1st International Colloquium on Airports and Spatial Development, Karlsruhe, 2009

By Knippenberger, Ute | The Town Planning Review, March 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

From Airport City to Airport Region? the 1st International Colloquium on Airports and Spatial Development, Karlsruhe, 2009


Knippenberger, Ute, The Town Planning Review


Airports are currently undergoing a process of functional and spatial transformation from infrastructural nodes to multifunctional, diverse arrangements. However, while noise and security constraints are acknowledged spatial impacts of airports, the results of the steadily increasing development in airport regions and their consequences for planning policy are under-researched. Whether this wider development is labelled 'non-aviation' (Jarach, 2001), 'concession' (Zhang and Zhang, 2003) or simply 'commercial' (Wolf, 2003), many airports have been developing specific expansion strategies, which use the attractiveness of the airport as a real estate development location. Airports themselves tend to label this strategy as 'Airport City' - an expression coined in an entrepreneurial analysis of the subject undertaken by Güller and Güller (2001) for the Airport Regions Conference.

Such wider airport-related strategies reflect a general spatial transformation, which could be subsumed under the notion of 'Global Cities' (Sassen, 1991), whose argument runs along the lines that firms associated with high-level service sectors (FIRE: finance, insurance and real estate) and knowledge economies (Florida, 2004) tend to agglomerate in specific urban environments. The Global Cities concept is, for example, underpinned by measuring and inter-relating criteria such as the scale of the urbanised area, labour productivity and research clustering in connection with the level of connectivity of air traffic (Boschken, 2008). Although the literal interdependency between the settlement of the FIRE sector with the exact level of air traffic connectivity remains unclear, the existence of an international airport can be seen as one aspect in a multidimensional bouquet of location decisive factors (Grote, 2008).

Beyond the service and knowledge industries, the attractiveness of airports and their vicinity applies specifically to the logistics sector and especially to goods with a fast-cycle production chain and of high value that are relatively dependent on air cargo. Kasarda and Green (2005) even argue that the volume and value of goods transported by air cargo is an important indicator of the strength of a national economy. The sector structure itself has seen significant centralisation driven by the growth of so-called 'integrators', namely full service logistic firms such as Kuehne & Nagel. These large integrators also conduct flows of goods to certain hub-airports (Neiberger, 2008), inducing a further degree of centralisation into the transport chain. Consultants also argue that real estate development at airports mainly occurs at locations with strong links to the global production chain (Wade, 2007). Airports can thus be understood as users and producers of spatial developments within their region.

The purpose of the Colloquium held on 9 and 10 July 2009 at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) (formerly University of Karlsruhe), Germany and organised by the Department for Urban Design and Planning (stba) was to examine the consequences of these spatial development influences and was addressed to researchers in the field and to professionals. In this way, the opportunity was provided for a specific theme - the consequences of the spatial development induced and driven by airports - to be discussed in an interdisciplinary manner, drawing in an exchange of knowledge and understanding from researchers from different backgrounds. Since the theme reflected practical questions for the regions and the airports themselves, it was also thought appropriate to discuss the research outcomes with practitioners. The colloquium attracted over 80 participants with about half of them from European Countries and a smaller share of intercontinental visitors from as far as South Africa and Australia. About a third of the participants were practitioners from governmental institutions, airports and consultancies; the other two-thirds were university-based researchers.

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