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Communication Dans Un Congrès Année : 2013

The airport as urban artifact : the ecology of the frontier


Airports embody an urban fiction, a distorting mirror – optimistic or somber – reflecting the hopes and disillusions of the cities to which they dock. Due to their exile from the dense city, their exteriority produces an exacerbated interiority, which absorbs city desires while in the meantime being progressively absorbed by the larger metropolis. As soon as it is achieved, this frontier – urban, technological, and institutional – calls for its own transcendence. My paper will explore this dialectic, seeking to understand how airport landscapes inform contemporary urbanism. We will focus in particular on the three decades following the Second World War – the Trente Glorieuses – which marked a spectacular moment for airport building within the industrialized nations. The cases of Orly and Roissy in Paris, and Idlewild/JFK in New York – emblematic airports built in iconic cities of the conquest of the air – will help us to explore this paradigm of the frontier. Between the birth of airport authorities, which solidified the autonomy of airport governance, and the rise of mass transportation subject to key risks such as terrorism, shrinking resources, and technological failures – the postwar decades embodied for airports several radical transitions: from a transport mode first dedicated to an elite to one of mass flows, from projection of a certain future to anticipation of obsolescence, from spatial distension to suburban intensification, from inevitable routinization to permanent innovation. These diverse yet correlated representations crystallized, providing a flourishing imaginary from which we have inherited. This retrospective view of the airport as an experimental field for investigating the question of the frontier allows us to stake out several paths in exploring contemporary landscape urbanism at the large scale.

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hal-00941927 , version 1 (04-02-2014)


  • HAL Id : hal-00941927 , version 1


Nathalie Roseau. The airport as urban artifact : the ecology of the frontier. Airport Landscape : Urban Ecologies in the Aerial Age, Nov 2013, Cambridge, United States. ⟨hal-00941927⟩
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