Infrastructure, 2012-2014

Our post-war urban infrastructure has aged and on a daily basis new voices speak to the urgent need for their replacement and reconstruction. Rather than forcing the rewiring of entire regional urban systems, urbanists will be more effective by targeting specific infrastructural projects that address multi-functional urban problems. The development of infrastructural research agendas and projects is a key mission for MIT’s Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism. To explore the various aspects of this research, the Center organized two conferences in Spring 2013 and 2014, titled ‘Infrastructural Monument’ and ‘Scaling Infrastructure’; and a symposium in Fall 2013 titled ‘Interwoven Purposes: Elements of Intelligent Infrastructure’.

Most people are accustomed to think of infrastructure as a series of systems that aid society in the exchange of goods and labor. This abstract definition does not acknowledge the possibility of reading a specific subset of infrastructures as a series of public artifacts. We live among these infrastructural objects, and use them collectively on a daily basis. As a result, they become part of our common culture, embedded in our collective experiences of urbanization. They provide a shared commonality throughout the physical space of society. However, infrastructural design is more often than not based on the primary or single function: the bridge for automobile use, the inter-modal station for parking lots, the coastal barrier for storm surge protection, and so forth.

Conferences: Infrastructural Monument approached the idea of infrastructure through the lens of multi-functional systemic objects – interventions that are limited and precise and yet address the multiple layers of functionality (capital, energy, health, hydrology, mobility, etc.). Scaling Infrastructure focused on the idea of resilience and redundancy, or the scaling down of infrastructure in customized ways to ensure systemic failure does not occur when urban areas are struck by unforeseen events, from economic to environmental catastrophes. Conference proceedings were published as two volumes in early 2016.
Symposium: The Interwoven Purposes: Elements of Intelligent Infrastructure symposium built on the focus on multifunctioning infrastructures that serve several differing goals simultaneously. Speakers delved into two primary questions: Which “interwoven infrastructure” will enable a non-compact, durable suburbia?; and what formal consequences emerge from the new intelligent infrastructure?



Fall 2012