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Monday, June 03, 2013

Rethinking Infrastructure

The fourth issue of Scenario, the newly minted name of the journal at, is Rethinking Infrastructure. The spring 2013 issue is edited by Stephanie Carlisle and Nicholas Pevzner and includes contributions by Margie Ruddick, Marcel Smets, Laura Solano, and many, many others.

[Filled mangrove near Bandra Station, Mumbai. Photo by Stephanie Carlisle]

A snippet from the editors' introduction:
In architecture, landscape architecture, ecology, economics, and even politics, we have recently seen the emergence of “infrastructure” as a central concept within the larger conversation about urbanism. Interest in urbanism has been growing over the last few decades alongside the realization of cities’ economic power and both the epic challenges and game-changing opportunities of the global migration to urban centers. The most difficult questions of urban performance, however, are often inseparable from the functioning and design of urban infrastructure.

Long focused on prominent civic objects and spaces in cities, designers are increasingly turning their attention to the less visible, but indispensible systems that underlie urban fabric. As designers expand the scale and scope of their projects, they are also recognizing the potential of infrastructure to serve as fertile conceptual territory. Unlike individual buildings (with the exception of megastructures), infrastructure can be seen as a tangible structuring device that operates at the scale of the city. In embracing infrastructure, designers are extending their agency to look not just at the pieces and parts of the city, but at the design of entire systems and their operations. Infrastructure is also a civic project, and as such just as worthy of design consideration as the vernacular urban fabric and territory to which it gives structure. Finally, amid an accelerating cascade of small failures and several highly visible catastrophic collapses, the value of often-overlooked infrastructural systems is becoming more evident, sparking a perception of infrastructural crisis and finally getting some overdue attention.

More importantly for us, however, is the ability of infrastructure to offer a framework for asking larger questions about competing visions of urban structure and performance: about the relationship of a designed intervention to its surrounding biophysical flows; about the connection between a system, its context and constituents; about the role of social and economic forces in shaping urban life.
Read the rest of the introduction here and see the table of contents for Rethinking Infrastructure here.

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