L[i/o]ving cities

Posts tagged ‘city’


For sure that any time you have asked yourself: Does the size really matters? Well, I am going to answer your question if you are thinking about airports. In former posts I have made some measures of some of the biggest airports all around the world; you can look at these posts to see the maps of the airports:
1. Europe
2. North America
3. Asia-Australia
4. South America-Africa-Middle East


Firstly I want to show the airports size´s rank (font: CityLines):

Dallas Fort Worth 4360
Denver International Airport 4200
King Fahd International Airport 3410
Shanghai, Pudong 3350
París, Charles de Gaulle 3100
Madrid Barajas 3050
New International Bangkok Airport 2980
Chicago O´Hare 2610
Cairo International Airport (Wadi al Jandali) 2550
Beijing Internacional airport 2330
Washington-dulles 2255
Amsterdam, Schipol 2090
New Delhi, Indira Gandhi international airport 1770
Toronto Pearson 1660
Salt lake City 1635
Atlanta Airport 1625
New York, JFK 1525
Frankfurt Airport 1470
Tokyo, Haneda 1445
Dubai International Airport 1445
Roma Fiumicino 1395
Los Angeles International 1325
Kansas city 1290
Hong Kong 1285
Londres, Heathrow 1215
Barcelona, El Prat 950
Rio de Janeiro, Galeao International Airport 950
Moscu Sheremetyevo 875
Sao Paulo, Guarulhos International 855
Sydney airport 820
Mexico, Aeropuerto Internacional Ciudad de Mexico 685
Buenos Aires, Pistarini 670
Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (Mumbai-Delhi) 575

This means that these 33 airports occupies the awesome area of 61.750 Ha that it is more or less Singapore´s size. The mean area for these airports is 1.871 Ha.

Secondly, I also going to show the passengers´ ranking, this is the following:

Atlanta Airport 92365860
Beijing Internacional airport 77403668
Londres, Heathrow 69433565
Chicago O´Hare 66561023
Tokyo, Haneda 62263025
Los Angeles International 61848449
París, Charles de Gaulle 60970551
Dallas Fort Worth 57806152
Frankfurt Airport 56436255
Hong Kong 53314213
Denver International Airport 52699298
Dubai International Airport 50977960
Amsterdam, Schipol 49754910
Madrid Barajas 49644302
New International Bangkok Airport 47910744
New York, JFK 47854283
Shanghai, Pudong 41450211
Roma Fiumicino 37651222
Sydney airport 36022614
New Delhi, Indira Gandhi international airport 34729467
Barcelona, El Prat 34387597
Toronto Pearson 33434199
Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (Mumbai-Delhi) 30439122
Sao Paulo, Guarulhos International 30371131
Mexico, Aeropuerto Internacional Ciudad de Mexico 26368861
Washington-dulles 23056291
Moscu Sheremetyevo 22555309
Salt lake City 20440913
Cairo International Airport (Wadi al Jandali) 16148480
Rio de Janeiro, Galeao International Airport 15184350
Kansas city 10469892
Buenos Aires, Pistarini 8786807
King Fahd International Airport 5267000

It is also amazing that the total amount of people that have used these 33 airports in 2011 is 1.384.007.724 (font Wikipedia). This amount of people is similar to China´s population, wow!

But the real question in this post is if size really matters for air traffic and airport management. Well, I think that if we compare the size of the airports with the amount of people that uses each airport we will have some idea about it. Watch the table below:

Londres, Heathrow 57146,967
Atlanta Airport 56840,529
Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (Mumbai-Delhi) 52937,603
Los Angeles International 46678,075
Sydney airport 43930,017
Tokyo, Haneda 43088,599
Hong Kong 41489,66
Mexico, Aeropuerto Internacional Ciudad de Mexico 38494,688
Frankfurt Airport 38392,01
Barcelona, El Prat 36197,471
Sao Paulo, Guarulhos International 35521,791
Dubai International Airport 35278,865
Beijing Internacional airport 33220,458
New York, JFK 31379,858
Roma Fiumicino 26990,123
Moscu Sheremetyevo 25777,496
Chicago O´Hare 25502,308
Amsterdam, Schipol 23806,177
Toronto Pearson 20141,084
París, Charles de Gaulle 19667,92
New Delhi, Indira Gandhi international airport 19621,168
Madrid Barajas 16276,82
New International Bangkok Airport 16077,431
Rio de Janeiro, Galeao International Airport 15983,526
Dallas Fort Worth 13258,292
Buenos Aires, Pistarini 13114,637
Denver International Airport 12547,452
Salt lake City 12502,087
Shanghai, Pudong 12373,197
Washington-dulles 10224,519
Kansas city 8116,1953
Cairo International Airport (Wadi al Jandali) 6332,7373
King Fahd International Airport 1544,5748

In this case we can see the incredible variation of the ratio PAX/AREA. From the most efficient airport, that is London Heathrow with 57.147 passengers managed per Hectare, to the least efficient airport, that is King Fahd International Airport with 1.545 passengers managed in 1 Hectare, there is a difference of 37 times more efficiency for London Heathrow.

Well, also considering that the size ratio between the biggest and the smallest of these airports (Dallas Fort Worth vs Chhatrapati Shivaji International) is 7,5 times, we can see how there is a lack of planning & management in the soil occupation of these infrastructures.

Considering the importance of keeping natural soils, I think this example is pretty clear about how infrastructures can be more or less sustainable on soil occupation.



I want to stop talking about airports for a while and continue talking about smart cities. In former posts I have talked about Smart Cities and I have said that it is important that citizens have to be the new center of decision of smart citizens. I have also supported that technology does not have to be the next barrier or the next excuse to oust citizens from public decisions.

In this City Lines post I also want to make you know this brilliant initiative to build our Smart Cities

you also have an english subtitled version here

You can see how this initiative goes one step beyond of what I said before and tries to build the smart city in a collaborative way. If we work with open source, open hardware solutions and collaborative people it is posible to have low cost solutions to build this smart cities that sometimes sound really odd for citizens. This is a brilliant idea that puts the citizen in the middle of the city construction and give us the tools to start making our own smart city.

Beyond this initiative it is also amazing how crowdfunding platforms as Goteo are arising in the Web. This kind of tools are already a real way to find the funds that governments are not able to provide to this kind of start up initiatives.

You can support Smart Citizen initiative here!


Somehow, when somebody talks to me about smart cities I start thinking about all the movies of the 80´s that I used to watch in my childhood, and I remember some futuristic cities and situations. Of all these movies, the strongest memory I have is from Tron, (the classical one, of course) with the red and blue motorbikes racing for their lives. Wow, it was amazing thinking about what the technology would provide!!


Tron was about a “supermachine” that controlled people´s memories and lives, and there was a character (the good one) that was trying to recover people´s lives. Actually, smart cities could have some similarities with that script, and I will explain.

I really agree with ICTs and other new technologies as a tool to improve our life quality and to achieve a better efficiency in the use of natural resources. I also think that it is absolutely necessary to invest in ICTs in our forthcoming smart cities, because nowadays´ civil engineering know-how is based on 19th and 20th century technologies.

But on the other hand, all these improvements cannot be presented as a new enlightened despotism ruled by Tron´s “supermachines”. Smart cities should not be ruled by new technocrat elites who know the performance of the new technologies and who tells us what machines “think” that are better for cities. Those could be smart cities, but definitely they are not smarter cities.

I think that technologists have to be the facilitators to get ICTs closer to citizens. Citizens have to be the new center of decision of smart cities and citizens have to be educated to consider social, environmental and economic criteria in their decisions. I also think that we have enough new ways of data visualization, communication media and social networks to be effective enough in this thrilling process of educating people and bringing smart cities (sorry, smarter cities) closer to citizens.

The next episode in your city!


In this trilogy I have previously talked about two of the dimensions of the city limits. I have talked about the physical limits of the cities and about their influence outside their physical limit. In this new post I am going to extend into the implication of the city limits and I want to talk briefly about how these limits have an influence on people and on people relations.

In this case I want to focus on how human relations have been altered with the city expansion/explosion. I think that there is an essential question, the bigger the city, the weaker the social control. So we can find an interesting paradox where agglomeration means some kind of isolation or liberation to people.

On the one hand, we know that in small towns and in closed communities there is a big social control from the rest of the people. In these settlements you are supported by the rest of the community but also controlled by the community rules. On the other hand, we know that in big cities your are more free to do whatever you want, although you are supported by fewer people than in smaller communities.

If I continue with this example it is funny to see how both sides of the story (bigger and smaller communities) have managed to try to get the good things of the other. For example, in small cities people usually go to more populated cities to spend time doing some activities that are not possible in the small cities and that express the individual likes of people (theatre, cinema, sport events, shopping…). On the other hand, people in big cities usually go to the same bars or cafes, or need to start different activities to meet people with similar likes.

I think that in big cities we enhance our individual side and in small towns we enhance our social or collective side. In any case, as people with complex behaviors, we have to reinforce the side of us that we are lacking due to the size of the city in which we are living. That implies that our individual behavior suits better a certain city topology. Of course, as we change our behavior during life, we will feel more comfortable in different types of cities along life.

Summarizing, in the first city limits post I have concluded that the size of the city is directly related to the physical possibility of communication. In the second city limit post I have concluded that as places for relation, the influence of the city network has to be considered worldwide. Finally, in this third city limits post I have explained that individually, different cities suit us better or worse depending on our own behavior. So maybe these three posts are not really useful to have a definition of the city limit, but I think that the importance of this city limit to understand its implication on personal relations is clear.


In the former post, The City Limits I: The City Itself, I talked about the ways of understanding the physical limit of cities. In this post, I still want to talk about the city limits but from a different point of view, not related to physical dimensions. In this case I want to talk about the intangible limit of the cities or the city hinterland.

In the last post I argued about the physical possibilities of mobility as the key factor to consider the limit of the city itself. But apart from the physical occupation of the land, it is true that cities have a bigger influence. For example, if we are talking about the world cities network we can see how there is a small number of cities that form part of this network, while the rest of the cities are just serving the principal nodes. We can see it clearly if we look at airports networks. Those main cities (known by everybody) which have the international connections are the world nodes and have the power to connect people from all over the world. That is an interesting key point, because again we are linking the physical possibility of moving and the transport ways of doing it.

We can also talk about the influence of cities economy. I have made an easy exercise, taking the 2008 GDP of several cities (PricewaterhouseCoopers UK Economic Outlook November 2009) and countries (Wikipedia). I have related the GDP of some mayor cities with their countries GDPs. The result is the following:

  • New York City 9,6% of USA GDP
  • Madrid 16,7% of Spain GDP
  • Paris 22,1% of France GDP
  • London 25,0% of United Kingdom GDP
  • Tokyo 27,4% of Japan GDP
  • Mexico D.F. 37,5%of Mexico GDP

These figures show how important is the mayor cities economy in the national (and in the international) level. We can also talk about political importance. To instantiate this reality I have found the following figure from Taylor et al. In the figure we can find a world formed through the great metropolis, but as decision centers who finally are the places which are ruling the world.

These three examples that I have exposed are another way to understand the city limits apart from their own physical limit. As we have seen, the holistic vision of the world as a sum of the biggest cities and not as a sum of countries is based in heavy foundations that guide us to understand their political, economic and connecting importance. So if in the former post we have said that the city is limited by the mobility possibilities, in this post we can say that, maybe, the cities have no limit if we understand them as the network where things happen in this world.


There is a big issue that has not been answered properly by urban planners, architects, engineers, geographers and other people who study cities. The issue is the one related to the city limits. Obviously, it is difficult to define it and more difficult to do it in a few blog posts, but I want to make an approach to some matters that are important in this question in the following three posts.

We are witnessing a huge urbanization and an accelerated process in city growing. But, apart from the urbanization process question, there is a more interesting question for which I do not have an answer, and it is How big can a city be? I have not found a definition of city containing the size component yet.

Despite this I already know that cities somehow are defined by people gathered, so maybe we can have some answers thinking about that matter. Going through this path we can think that people also need some “stuff” for living. Firstly, I am sure that people need to feed themselves, but nowadays food production happens outside the city, so this will not be the key factor to define our cities limit, although it was before the 15th century. Secondly we can think about energy, but we can reach the same formerly conclusion, energy can be produced in a “national” scenario, so it cannot be the defining question. We can also think about a great number of issues and we usually reach the same conclusion, we can think about information, goods, money, etc. and we have to assume that this ´stuff´ can come from out of the city limits.

To solve this problem I started to think more in people´s relations and in the advantage of proximity relations between people and I found one service that has to be given in the city to take advantage of agglomeration, transportation. Transport has to solve the physical problem of communication inside the city and it has to solve the problem in a certain time. It is assumed that a person can´t spend longer than a certain time to go and return to or from his house (one hour/one hour and a half maximum per trip). So with the fastest transport modes that we nowadays have, cars and metropolitan railways, we could imagine a city limit defined by their influential area and by the time that a person can spend in transport in a single day.

I think that this is an interesting point of view, because we can see cities as relational systems more than agglomeration places and this vision allows to link people with the city limit through the physical needs of communication.

A car(e)free mobility

The possibilities that new technologies gives us to manage our mobility are amazing. A carefree society with a car-free mobility.

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