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Visualizing

A World Of Only Airports Is A Strikingly Different Place

A new mapping project uses only airport runways as geographic reference points, and gives a picture of a world where mobility isn’t available to everyone.

  • <p>The World, Traced by Airport Runways, by James Davenport, creates a world map using only the land occupied by airports and runways.</p>
  • <p>Davenport says: The Mexican border "is traced in stark detail, creating a poignant visual reminder of the dichotomy in wealth between these neighbors.”</p>
  • <p>North America and Europe are a veritable sea of blue.</p>
  • <p>With strong points of articulation across busy areas like Australia and Brazil.</p>
  • <p>Though some of the blank spots might have to do with the reliability of the data in those countries in comparison to places in the developing world.</p>
  • <p>In a world of budget airlines increasingly bringing passengers to more and more obscure locales, it’s striking to see just how much of the world remains completely disconnected.</p>
  • <p>Despite the banality of air travel, for much of the globe, it remains exotic.</p>
  • 01 /09

    The World, Traced by Airport Runways, by James Davenport, creates a world map using only the land occupied by airports and runways.

  • 02 /09

    Davenport says: The Mexican border "is traced in stark detail, creating a poignant visual reminder of the dichotomy in wealth between these neighbors.”

  • 03 /09

    North America and Europe are a veritable sea of blue.

  • 04 /09

    With strong points of articulation across busy areas like Australia and Brazil.

  • 05 /09

    Though some of the blank spots might have to do with the reliability of the data in those countries in comparison to places in the developing world.

  • 06 /09

    In a world of budget airlines increasingly bringing passengers to more and more obscure locales, it’s striking to see just how much of the world remains completely disconnected.

  • 07 /09

    Despite the banality of air travel, for much of the globe, it remains exotic.

  • 08 /09
  • 09 /09

Air travel is an economic lifeline of the global economy, so it goes without saying that centers of global power are where the world’s airports are concentrated. A new mapping project makes that connection explicit, by drawing a map of the world based solely on where airports are located.

The World, Traced by Airport Runways by James Davenport uses a data dump of 45,132 runways on Earth to re-envision a map of the globe using those markers as the only geographic reference. North America and Europe are a veritable sea of blue, with strong points of articulation across busy areas like Australia and Brazil. (Part of that probably has to do with the reliability of the data in those countries in comparison to places in the developing world.)

"The most dramatic and surprising transition is between the U.S. and Mexico," Davenport told Co.Design. "America is a beehive of runways and helipads that fades gradually into Canada. [Around Mexico] the border is traced in stark detail, creating a poignant visual reminder of the dichotomy in wealth between these neighbors."

Indeed, in a world of budget airlines increasingly bringing passengers to more and more obscure locales, it’s striking to see just how much of the world remains completely disconnected. Despite the banality of air travel, for much of the globe, it remains exotic.

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