Systems & Strategies for Contemporary Urbanization
A two-day symposium exploring the future of infrastructure and urbanization beyond the dogma of civil engineering and transportation planning. Presentations and panel discussions focus on the growing agency of ecology to propose responsive strategies that address the predominant challenges facing urban economies today including climate dynamics, carbon and nitrogen accumulation, population mobilities, and resource economies.
Drawing from an array of interrelated disciplines and practices, guest speakers include:
Kate Ascher, Happold Consulting
Public Works: The Subterranean Anatomy of a City
Sabine Barles, Université Paris 1, UMR Géographie-Cités The Nitrogen Question: Urban metabolism and the making of urban landscape, 19th–21st century
Liz Barry, PLOTS – Public Laboratory for Open Technology & Science
Erle Ellis, Geography & Environmental Systems, UMBC The Anthromes Project
Wendi Goldsmith, The Bioengineering Group Ecological Enterprise Leadership
Jo Guldi, Harvard Society of Fellows The Infrastructure State
Kevin S. Holden, US Army Corps of Engineers Watershed Economics & Floodplain Politics
Peter del Tredici, Arnold Arboretum – GSD Plants as Megastructure
Christophe Girot, ETH Zurich Degrees of Precision
Eduardo Rico & Enriqueta Llabres, ARUP – Relational Urbanism Urban Processes & Relational Modelling
Todd Shallat, Center for Idaho History and Politics, BSU Building Infrastructure: Water, Science & Technology and the rise of the US Army Corps of Engineers
Kevin Shanley & Ying-Yu Hung, SWA – I.R.I.S. Building Soft
Dirk Sijmons, TU Delft, HNS Landschapsarchitecten The Metabolic Landscape
Rosalind Williams, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Infrastructure as Lived Experience
Dawn Wright, ESRI Chief Scientist & Oceanographer Geodesigning Coastal and Ocean Space
Urban life is sustained by technological infrastructure. Highways, harbours, airports, power lines, landfills and mines largely figure as the dominant effigies of contemporary urbanization. The sheer size of these elements renders their understanding as a single system practically impossible, yet their operations depend precisely on their continuity to support the flow of capital and cultural mobility. Often found underground, or beyond the periphery of cities, the presence of urban infrastructure remains largely invisible until the precise moment at which it fails or breaks down. Floods, blackouts and shortages serve as a few reminders of the limited capacity and fragility of this large operating structure that unilaterally depends on constant control and micro-management for its sustenance.
As the invisible background of contemporary society, the smooth functioning of infrastructure has literally naturalized the processes of urbanization whereas less than a century ago, a basic level of collective, essential services barely existed. Rarely, do we stop to interrogate the functioning, let alone the effects – geospatially, metabolically, or semiotically – of this Taylorist, technological superstructure. Yet recent events – from the sudden collapse of highway bridges, the rise and fall of water levels, the growing hazards of coastal storms and coastal eutrophication, the accumulating effects of carbon emissions, the surge in foreign oil prices and spike in food prices, the drop in credit markets, to the increase in population mobility and dispersal – are instigating a critical review of the basic foundation upon which urban economies depend on.
Emerging from current economic exigencies and environmental imperatives, this symposium engages these challenges by re-examining the precepts of infrastructure – the basic system of essential services that support a city, a region, a nation, a continent – as well as the patterns of urbanization from which they originated. Responding to the overexertion of civil engineering and the inertia of urban planning vis-à-vis the pace and complexity of urbanization at the turn of the 21st century, the symposium challenges the technocratic role of engineers, transportation planners and policy makers who have profoundly shaped the urban environment that we move through and live in today. Drawing from the growing agency of contemporary urbanists – ecologists, geographers, historians, designers, conservationists and social groups – who are rethinking the predominance of centralized infrastructures, guest speakers employ a telescopic vantage to bring forth alternative models, methods and measures across a range of scales, that seek to decouple the Fordist economies of scale from the paradigm of economic growth.
By revealing the multi-dimensional complexities, externalities and cross-dependencies within the infrastructures of waste and water, energy and mobility, food and fuel, guest speakers further examine how the landscape of technological hardware and biophysical software can be cultivated as both a system and a strategy for contemporary urbanism that is flexible, contingent, and multidimensional. Through contemporary projects and cutting edge research, the underlying objective of the symposium is to unearth and unlock the potential of emerging synergies and high-performance strategies that span the critical divide between ecology and economy underlying patterns of urbanization in the 21st century.
The symposium features 3 successive panel sessions and open discussions respectively exploring the historic, technologic and strategic landscape of infrastructure:
Session 1: Redefining Infrastructure From Control Engineering to Design Calibration
Session 2: Representing Infrastructure From the Personal to the Planetary
Session 3: Rebuilding Infrastructure Ecological Engineering, Soft Systems, Economic Synergies
Final Roundtable: Re-Envisioning Infrastructure
Contingencies, Complexities, Risks
The full program of guest speakers and biographies and schedule of panel start times are available as PDF downloads.
References As a primer to the symposium, a collection of reference readings from guest speakers and panelists will be available shortly.
Audience Free and open to the public. Students and scholars as well as practitioners and decision-makers from a range of interdependent disciplines—ecology, history, geography, landscape architecture, civil & environmental engineering, architecture regional planning, public policy, governance and urbanism—are welcome to attend. Organized and Curated by Pierre Bélanger, Associate Professor in Landscape Architecture, GSD
Speakers: Kate Ascher, Sabine Barles, Liz Barry, Peter Del Tredici, Erle C. Ellis, Christophe Girot, Kevin S. Holden, Wendi Goldsmith, Jo Guldi, Ying-Yu Hung, Enriqueta Llabres, Eduardo Rico, Todd Shallat, Kevin Shanley, Dirk Sijmons, Dawn Wright
Moderators & Respondents: Anita Berrizbeitia, Neil Brenner, Rania Ghosn, Antoine Picon, Chris Reed, Michael Jakob, Nina-Marie Lister, Gerdo P. Aquino, Hashim Sarkis, Daniel Schrag, Charles Waldheim
Anyone requiring accessibility accommodations should contact the events office at (617) 496-2414 or firstname.lastname@example.org.