JULY 19-20, 2018


Many airports are now located far from cities, buffered by hectares of greenfield. The substantial provision of land that comes from such a distance safeguards for future expansion, protects urban residents from noise pollution, and generates economic, environmental and cultural opportunities. 

Airports are more than simply facilities for air travel; they catalyze a city’s economic development and act as gateways that define a ‘sense of place’. AERIAL FUTURES: CONSTRUCTED LANDSCAPES examines the contemporary airport’s emerging and unprecedented role as real estate developer and urban planner. 

Taking Denver International Airport (DEN) as a case study, this think tank looks at the opportunities and risks faced by the airport in their new role as agents for urban change. Opened in 1995, DEN is one and a half times the size of Manhattan and is the largest commercial airport in the United States. Much of its land will never be used for airport expansion and, thanks to the 2016 opening of the RTD commuter rail station, that land now holds significant promise for the future. Adopting a Transit Oriented Development (TOD) approach, the site is envisioned as a living laboratory for autonomous vehicles, zero-energy consumption, and sustainable living. But are these high-tech aims compatible with its parallel ambitions, as a mixed-use development centered around human-scale interaction, entertainment, and productive public space? 

This AERIAL FUTURES think tank explores the ways in which the land adjacent to airports is fertile ground for experimentation in architecture, urban design, and transportation. As developers, airports must negotiate the tension between continuity and change. At their disposal are existing models for urban planning, found in cities everywhere, but their uniquely autonomous status also allows for innovation and disruption. AERIAL FUTURES: CONSTRUCTED LANDSCAPES interrogates the myriad ways that technology is transforming greenfields into connected, integrated airfield communities.


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