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Coordinating Sustainable Airport Landside Growth within the Urban Fabric

Airport-related development in Brisbane: Headquarter of Virgin Australia

Project outline

Airport-led urban development at and around major airports has been defined as “Airport City”, “Aerotropolis” or “Airport Metropolis”. This urban growth model for airports is characterised by multi-functional land development, business precincts, hotels and retail complexes. Non-aviation landside development of airport property is becoming a global phenomenon. Revenues from real estate development are supplementing a volatile aviation market and offering alternative revenue streams to airports. This development concept has been embraced by many airports of different scales and in varied ways around the world. Airports world-wide have diversified their landside revenues with non-aviation commercial, industrial and retail development in order to increase revenues and spread risk in the notoriously volatile aviation market.

The primary question that this collaborative research seeks to answer is:
“How has airport-driven land development impacted the surrounding urban form?”

In particular, the following research objectives will guide the research:

  1. Examination of airport land-side development models in terms of land use types and functions: How have airports developed their sources of land-side revenue in lease arrangements? What types of land uses characterise the airport development model?
  2. Review of the impact of airport land development on surrounding metropolitan plans: How have airport and city land use plans been coordinated? How do airports and cities coordinate infrastructure?
  3. Assessment of the impact of airport land development on travel behaviour: Has airport land development increased or decreased car dependency? How have airports integrated public transport into land development?

These questions will be answered by analysing airports in Australia and Germany. Since privatisation, Australian capital city airports have rapidly developed real estate for non-aviation commercial land uses. German airports are often semi-privatised, and despite a strong trend towards commercial marketing of airport land, local and regional governments still have a strong influence on the decision-making processes of airport operators. Moreover, in Germany, commuting to work by public transport is more important and different urban/regional planning frameworks have led to different coordination mechanisms of land use planning. These differences in the institutional framework enable both research teams to highlight a diversity of airport-induced processes on a broad empirical basis.


Principal Investigators

Prof. Dr. Boris Braun, Institute of Geography, University of Cologne

Prof. Douglas Baker, School of Civil Engineering and Built Environment, Property and Planning, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane

Chief Investigator

Dr. Md Kamruzzaman; Senior Lecturer, School of Civil Engineering and Built Environment, Property and Planning, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane

Postdoctoral researchersDr. Johanna Schlaack, Postdoctoral Researcher and Urbanist, Center for Metropolitan Studies, Technische Universität Berlin
Research fellows

Dipl.-Geogr. Fabian Sonnenburg, PhD candidate, Institute of Geography, University of Cologne

Hannah Stanley, Graduate Urban and Regional Planner, PhD candidate, School of Civil Engineering and Built Environment, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane

Master studentMagnus Keller, B.Sc., University of Cologne


September 2014

December 2014

March 2015

September 2015

Second half of 2015

Kick-off workshops in Cologne and Berlin

Kick-off workshops in Brisbane and Canberra

Semi-structured expert interviews in Brisbane, Canberra and Sydney

Semi-structured expert interviews in Düsseldorf and Berlin

Completion of joint publications


The project is funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Australian Technology Network of Universities (ATN) within a ATN-DAAD Joint Research Co-operation Scheme for 2014 and 2015.