URBANISM, AND INFRASTRUCTURE -...

16
EVERYDAY URBANISM, LANDSCAPE URBANISM, AND INFRASTRUCTURE INFRASTRUCTURE FOR THE NEW SOCIAL COMPACT WIlliAM R. MORRISH AND CATHERINE R. BROWN (1995) \ Infrastructure.is a metaphor for a m.uch bigger set of issues or a much deeper reckonmg about the future. It 5 a metaphor for how We care abo .. Ut j and cope with the future. It's not just concerned about structures Structures are important. They provide a service that has value. But highways, bridges, dams and water systems are also a means by which We ' relate to each other as humans and this fragile and beautiful planet. It's these built systems that create our protection-and connec. tion. I believe a starting point for any kind of strategy on infrastructure is to think about the built environment with as much discipline and passion as the most concerned bring to the question of the natural environment. Nancy Rutledge Connery Executive Director National Council on Public Works Throughout his 1992 election campaign, President Clinton spoke of the need to establish a new compact between the national leadership and its citizens in a common quest to rebuild America's economy as well as its communities, emphasizing infrastructure development as one of the primary tools for accomplishing both. Before long, infrastructure became the buzz word of the day, tossed about as casually in the media as it was at cocktail parties. When the Clinton Transition Team contacted us regarding our thoughts as urban designers on the role and function of infrastructure in the remaking of community, we found ourselves reexamining some mental questions. What is infrastructure? How can an expanded standing of it maximize the benefits of new infrastructure dollars for human, plant, and animal communities? Unfortunately, we found that infrastructure is often narrowly equated with public works. Each community has a public works department sible for the planning, design, and maintenance of the" practical" aspects of city services, such as transportation, water supply, sewage, garbage disposal and, in many cities, parks and recreation. To describe infrastructure as public works, and to define public works as those utilitarian functions which merely support the economic productivity of the community, hides the broader possibilities of infrastructure as the repository of cultural imagination, the network for community connections, and a vivid display of local ecological resources. 138

Transcript of URBANISM, AND INFRASTRUCTURE -...

EVERYDAY URBANISM, LANDSCAPE URBANISM, AND INFRASTRUCTURE

INFRASTRUCTURE FOR THE NEW SOCIAL COMPACT WIlliAM R. MORRISH AND CATHERINE R. BROWN (1995) \

Infrastructure.is a metaphor for a m.uch bigger set of issues or a much ~

deeper reckonmg about the future. It 5 a metaphor for how We care abo .. :~ Ut j

and cope with the future. It's not just concerned about structures ~ Structures are important. They provide a service that has value. But th~ ,:~ highways, bridges, dams and water systems are also a means by which We '

relate to each other as humans and this fragile and beautiful planet. It's

these built systems that create our hoped~for protection-and connec. tion. I believe a starting point for any kind of strategy on infrastructure is to think about the built environment with as much discipline and passion

as the most concerned bring to the question of the natural environment.

Nancy Rutledge Connery

Executive Director

National Council on Public Works

Throughout his 1992 election campaign, President Clinton spoke of the need to establish a new compact between the national leadership and its citizens in a common quest to rebuild America's economy as well as its communities, emphasizing infrastructure development as one of the primary tools for accomplishing both. Before long, infrastructure became the buzz word of the day, tossed about as casually in the media as it was at cocktail parties. When the Clinton Transition Team contacted us regarding our thoughts as urban designers on the role and function of infrastructure in the remaking of community, we found ourselves reexamining some funda~ mental questions. What is infrastructure? How can an expanded under~ standing of it maximize the benefits of new infrastructure dollars for human, plant, and animal communities?

Unfortunately, we found that infrastructure is often narrowly equated with public works. Each community has a public works department respon~ sible for the planning, design, and maintenance of the" practical" aspects of city services, such as transportation, water supply, sewage, garbage disposal and, in many cities, parks and recreation. To describe infrastructure as public works, and to define public works as those utilitarian functions which merely support the economic productivity of the community, hides the broader possibilities of infrastructure as the repository of cultural imagination, the network for community connections, and a vivid display of local ecological resources.

138

AGR
Typewritten Text
From: Writing Urbanism, Douglas Kelbaugh ed, (ACSA Publication, 2008)
AGR
Typewritten Text
AGR
Typewritten Text

'N

Ich

JUt 'es,

he Ve t's

'c·

is

'n

y

r s '(

INFRASTRUCTURE FOR THE NEW SOCIAL COMPACT

INFRASTRUCTURE ,,\S A REPOSITORY OF CULTURAL IMAGINATION:

MEANING AND BEAUTY

Builders of the post-World War II landscape have separated function from form in infrastructure, regarding the city's network of transportation, ower lines, water supply, sewage, and garbage disposal as mere utilitarian

~ysteIT1s rather than cultural artifacts or forms of public art. This split is dearly illustrated by Le Corbusier's central text on urbanism, The Radiant City, published in 1933. One of the book's infrastructure diagrams is par­

ticularly telling. In it, Le Corbusier illustrates how he and many other

designers have selectively edited infrastructure out of the new urban utopia,

treating it as a mere utilitarian system to tap for needed services. In his scheme the landscape is green, the sun bright, and the highway skillfully

hidden in foliage. Infrastructure blight-electrical lines, sewers, power

plants, and factories-is drawn below the picture frame, tied to the houses

in this idyllic I~ndscape by neutral thin lines. The messy, ugly workings of

infrastructure are stowed out of sight like the power plant of a transatlantic ship, which performs the dirty job of transforming natural material into

head, clean water, and power below the water line of the ship. With the

unsightly clutter of infrastructure hidden beneath the drawing, the resi­

dentia1landscape takes on the contours of a 19th century park, a tranquil place to re-create oneself far from the modern world's assaults upon the

well-being of the inhabitant.

A ROOM WITH A DIFFERENT VIEW: CONSEQUENCES OF THE SPLIT

As in Le Corbusier's drawing, we have designed and planned our post­

World War II American cities under the illusion that infrastructure was a

utility to be placed out of sight and separated from the landscapes that

nurture us spiritually as well as economically. The results have been mixed.

We assumed that the landscape had an ever-increasing capacity to absorb growth and remain a pristine scenic backdrop. Since the 1950s, many sub­

urbanites have believed that they could escape the ugliness of the urban

infrastructure and environmental degradation of the city and start over in

the woods and wetlands of the surrounding suburban communities. Land­use planning would protect their "room with a view"-their uninterrupted

"view" of the sun, their patch of green, and the purity of their water. Infra­

structure would be constructed outside the picture frame. Thus, most sub­

urban comprehensive plans are based on the separation of two worlds: the

utilitarian and the natural. Utilitarian structures were conceived as benign,

single-function service systems that by-passed homes as they supplied the

needs of economic productivity. They could leave untouched the natural,

or aesthetic, environment where homes are established, children are raised, and families recreate. This bisection was successful as long as these systems

remained inconspicuous and little in number, and there was enough

undeveloped land to buffer subdivisions from infrastructure.

139

Consequences of the split view of

infrastructure: "From the backyard

into the frontyard,lI

WILLIAM R. MORRISH AND CATHERINE R. BROWN

/ ¥ /

But the newness of the suburban landscape has begun to wear off and the older infrastructure of the inner city is collapsing. In the suburbs, wetlands have been drained and channeled into storm sewers; woodlands have disappeared. Small county roads are being expanded into trunk highways to meet increased demand. New thoroughfares are treated as mere functional conduits whose sole purpose is to move goods, services, and people fast and efficiently. Today, the infrastructure, which was supposed to remain in the alley at the rear of the house, has crept into full view in the front yard, fracturing, destroying, and homogenizing a landscape which was supposed to be a safe, comfortable refuge from the grittiness of the city.

WHERE DO WE LOOK FOR ANSWERS?

The city and suburb are beginning to find that degraded and degrading infrastructure is an issue they have in common. Both are learning that infrastructure is a cultural utility, a civilizing amenity, not a necessary evil to be placed "below the picture frame." Infrastructure is the visible underpinning of civic life, which can instruct citizens about their values and relationships to each other and highlight the connections between the city, suburb, and the hinterland whose natural resources sustain it. Infrastructure can-and should-make those lines of connection clear and vivid.

To build infrastructure that participates this deeply in the imaginative life of its community requires a fundamental shift in our attitude toward the landscape. In his book Discovering the Vernacular Landscape, John Brinckerhoff Jackson, the noted scholar of American landscape, says that the most magnificent city complexes "recognize the need to integrate infra­structure, or civil engineering, with landscape, or architecture." Beautiful

140

J" INFRASTRUCTURE FOR THE NEW SOCIAL COMPACT

: - and brilliant schemes are created when "they both reorganize space for human needs, both produce works of art in the truest sense." To do this we

need to recognize the inseparability of landscape and infrastructure. In "The Word Itself," one of the essays in the book, Jackson writes:

A landscape is not a natural feature of the environment but a synthetic

space, a man-made system of spaces superimposed on the face of the land,

functioning and evolving not according to natura/laws but to serve a community-for the collective character of the landscape is one thing that

all generations and all points of view have agreed upon.

He points to Holland, an engineered landscape largely reclaimed from the North Sea, or Frederick Law Olmsted's design for the Boston Fens as examples of this synthetic landscape whose "organizations of space have been so well assimilated into the natural environment that they are indis­tinguishable and unrecognized for what they are." For Jackson, infra­

structure not only provides the backdrop for culture but the very ingredients

that make it possible:

In the contemporary world it is by recognizing this similarity of purpose

that we will eventually formulate a new definition of landscape: a

composition of made-made or man-modified spaces to serve as

infrastructure or background for our collective existence; and if background seems inappropriately modest we should remember that in

our modern use of the word it means that which underscores not only our

identity and presence, but also our history.

INFRASTRUCTURE AS LANDSCAPE: THREE BACKGROUNDS FOR OUR

COLLECTIVE EXISTENCE

In order for infrastructure to become the background for our collective

existence, identity, presence, and history, we believe that infrastructure must

fulfill broader cultural, social, and ecological functions. The infrastructure

in these human-made landscapes should serve multiple goals. Chief among these goals is enriching our sense of place, by bridging our commonwealth

and enhancing the workings of ecological systems.

INFRASTRUCTURE: ENRICHING OUR SENSE OF PLACE

Traditionally, we have conceived of infrastructure as a neutral gray utility,

as objects and spaces devoid of cultural expression or celebration out of a

fear of distracting the motorist or drawing attention to the messy plumbing

of the city. Sometimes we neglect exploring the cultural possibilities of infra­

structure under the misguided policy, "If it looks good, it costs too much."

We must remember that these, pieces and systems perform the essential

141

-hree infrastructure backgrounds to

mr collective existence: "Enrich,

:onned and enhance, place,

:lcology and commonwealth."

WILLIAM R. MORRISH AND CATHERINE R. BROWN

., INFA1smJcrvAe elllP/OI/IJ(J- me SeN56 OF PcA(£

• l{IIfiASfF..VC-wf'C

eP/(J61'I'Ja- 1lfe COI/.{PMwE/t/:l1f

IN f'P,t ml.JClTll'6 GtJittWCli\!6- GtDUJ6/<A1.-­FVIIlCT/JW

"cultural workings" of our society. They enrich our sense of who we are and

characterize the places we inhabit. We need, then, to give priority to infrastructure projects that improve

formal, spatial, and aesthetic connections and create a heightened sense of place for our citizens. Beautiful infrastructure that is inspired by and responsive to the physical and topographic features of the locale is primary to creating community identity and a personal sense of orientation. One of America's most outstanding examples of the rich layering of cultural and function in infrastructure is Philadelphia's Fairmount Waterworks, built in 1815. Among the country's first urban water systems, the steam~driven

142

INFRASTRUCTURE FOR THE NEW SOCIAL COMPACT

lant pumped water from the Schuylkill River into the homes of Phila­~elphia residents. To house these waterworks, the city chose a group of Greek Revival temples, designed by Frederick Graff, a utilitarian acropolis set into Fairmount Park that symbolized the new democratic urban land­

scape amid the park's natural systems. Though newer facilities have been built to meet the city's increased

demands for water, the waterworks stand today as a historic landmark, an infrastructural "ruin" that provides a tangible reminder of the cultural values that have shaped the city. Following the Fairmount Waterworks, our whole web of infrastructure-roads, water mains, pumping stations, garbage­transfer facilities, and water treatment plants-need to be more broadly conceived as not only service system, but as armatures for culture. As such, they have three functions: to provide a repository for collective memory, to establish an orientation and path-finding framework, and to provide a clear curriculum of civic instruction on how to use and value this

investment.

Where do we go from here?

Garrison Keillor once joked, it's "remarkable that all the towns in Iowa were named after their water tanks." Keillor, in his way, underscored the basic legacy among American cities throughout the 19th and 20th centuries of building public temples and parks to house infrastructure. Not only did they define the public realm and symbolize democracy's collective power, but these landmarks remind us of our daily struggle to shape the forces of nature into the landscapes which provide the foundation for our modern cities, as in New Orleans, for example, where city water pumps battle round the clock to prevent the groundwater from flooding the slim crust of elevated land upon which the city'S character is defined.

Just as it provides the lines of continuity between the past and the present and provides the foundation upon which our future rests, infrastructure can also shape a spatial framework for cognitive path-finding to help citizens find their way across a metropolitan landscape. In the past we have used historic monuments, civic buildings, parks, and prominent topographic features as visual landmarks that help us orient ourselves in the city and mark sub-districts within a larger metropolitan area. More recently, however, we have given little thought to the usefulness of infrastructure­the highways, power lines, and waterworks-as signature landmarks that can guide us through the complex web of places in urban landscapes.

The city of Phoenix has taken steps to capture this opportunity. As part of a proposed $1 billion infrastructure development, the city asked us in 1987 to assist the Phoenix Arts Commission in constructing a unique urban design plan which used public works to improve the physical quality of the community. The city'S goal, according to the Phoenix Public Arts Plan, is the construction of

143

WILLIAM R. MORRISH AND CATHERINE R. BROWN

... a series of sites linked to the spatial and public infrastructure systems of

Phoenix. This approach allows for not only the provision of sites suitable

for artists' works, but also for the creation of a public orientation system. The public art "system" idea helps a person locate oneself within the

expansive urban landscape partly by creating a heightened sense of

orientation. This can be created by responding to the context of natural

and built [andscape~ climatic conditions and the historic/cultural tradition of the desert Southwest. Collectively individual works of art and the public

art system as a whole can help the citizen to better understand and

comprehend both the city and the region.

This plan has resulted in several public artworks, including the trans­formation of a new cross-town expressway into a desert parkway heavily planted with native vegetation; a standard highway overpass into a new neighborhood gateway; and a garbage-truck transfer station into a public landmark and environmental education center. Infrastructure is now part of Phoenix citizens' "mental map." These cognitive landmarks help them define themselves and the place in which they live.

These infrastructure facilities were also designed to be didactic-instruct­ing citizens about the meaning, value, and function of the systems that support their communities. Incorporating instructional devices establishes a connection between the community and the engineered utility, transforming basic facilities into attractive public places in which citizens experience key lessons of public responsibility. That connection provides a common set of experiences that facilitate a clearer understanding of how we, as individuals, are related and how our actions are connected to maintaining the quality of the place. For example, Phoenix citizens have learned that the city'S infrastructure legacy dates to the irrigation canals of the Hohokam that crisscrossed the valley floor nearly 1600 years ago. Today, these irriga­tion canals provide the basis for linking neighborhoods and the city with the basic life-giving force of the area's water. In a city dominated by streets and highways, these canals and water systems have become new focuses of community activity and development, and a framework for a new community map.

The city of Phoenix has extended this kind of civic instruction into one of the most banal of urban infrastructures-a garbage-transfer and recycling center-with impressive results. "I would like this facility to become one of the features visitors come to Phoenix to see," says Ron Jensen, director of the city's Department of Public Works. Supported by the Phoenix Arts Commission, artists Linnea Glatt and Michael Singer­with the help of consulting engineers Black and Veach-transformed this standard landfill project into an educational landmark. Described as a multi-functional marketplace, the facility not only serves as a site for solid-waste transfer, recyclable materials sorting, and vegetation recovery

144

I \

and the

I

ne" can chr(

for

INFRASTRUCTURE FOR THE NEW SOCIAL COMPACT

.... ': .. '%\ 1'1'-1

and mulching, but also hosts educational and demonstration projects for public.

Designed as much more than the standard single-use dump, Phoenix's i new waste facility includes a desert landscape built upon a mound of dis­:. carded concrete sidewalk and demolition material; recycling displays that • chrollicle the history of waste disposal; a solid-waste library; amphitheater

films and lecture; and an elevated walkway that allows visitors to view

145

Phoenix Public Art Works "cultural infrastructure. "

WILLIAM R. MORRISH AND CATHERINE R. BROWN

waste operations. In 1992, the public got its first glimpse of the facility at a black-tie event called "Dance at the Dump," fulfilling a goal outlined in a project brochure: "Unlike most recycling or transfer facilities that operate in an 'out of site, out of mind' context, this facility will encourage visitors to view the entire operation."

Though the costs for this innovative and imaginative investment are comparable to those of building a standard landfill transfer station, the payoffs are much greater in the long term. For one thing, the facility teaches more responsible "refuse" habits. By teaching citizens how to be better consumers of the service, the system is more efficiently used and maintenance costs are reduced.

Furthermore, visitors learn about the impacts of their waste behavior on the larger eco-community. Site landscaping and connections between the building and the surrounding mountains remind visitors about how good waste management can help to reduce degradation of the area's fragile desert. An adjacent storm-water recharge landscape, currently under construction, teaches lessons about desert water harvesting. And by making this facility a civic showpiece rather than a dumping ground, the city multiplies the land-use possibilities of surrounding sites. The waste complex, for example, could serve as an anchor for new private and public development centering on education, recycling, and the environment.

INFRASTRUCTURE: BRIDGING OUR COMMONWEALTH

In our earnest efforts to provide the needed infrastructure to service a vital economy, we've often forgotten that infrastructure is one of the most visible fruits of a community's collective labor. As a result, we've pursued a wasteful, inequitable course that squanders this collective infrastructure investment, subdivides what we share, and abandons poorer communities. Starting in the 1950s and ending in the 1980s, we focused our natural resources on building an infrastructure system for our cities across our nation. In some areas, these systems exist with underutilized excess capacity; in others, aging infrastructure is in rapid decline. Instead of building upon this foundation, since 1980, we have diverted system maintenance funding to capitalize on new infrastructure at the outer limits of urban centers-at the expense of our networks in our existing city. We've stretched our resources to such an extent that gaps have begun to appear in the fabric of not only our inner cities, but our first- and second-ring communities, as well.

The future costs of this neglect are staggering. Infrastructure is a public resource that requires continual maintenance. Recent federal reports state that deferred maintenance has contributed to America's economic decline. By some estimates, more than $3 trillion are needed nationwide to upgrade our existing systems. Not surprisingly, few citizens are aware of the magni-

146

INFRASTRUCTURE FOR THE NEW SOCIAL COMPACT

tude of the investment we have made-in money, energy, and social upheaval-to construct and maintain existing infrastructure in our cities. We have so successfully placed it out of sight that we have lost contact with its fundamental role in shaping our collective existence.

In cities such as Cincinnati, Ohio (population 350,000), however, greater awareness of this investment is changing urban attitudes and policies. As part of a recent public assessment of the city's infrastructure, city officials and business leaders calculated the replacement cost of that infrastructure as $10.2 billion in 1990 dollars. This major community investment-bridges, park systems, river-front esplanades, storm-water channels, and water­filtering stations, not to mention more linear miles of retaining walls than any other American city to keep neighborhoods on the hills overlooking the Ohio River from sliding down its banks-provides civic identity and ensures Cincinnati's competitive edge as a regional marketplace. Aware of its valuable heritage, Cincinnati has begun to rebuild a stronger sense of community by leveraging its infrastructure heritage.

One of the most positive results of this public effort was the enlistment of the larger community in the making and maintaining of public works. With the help of neighborhood groups and individual citizens, a city commission of business and community leaders recently inventoried city facilities and procedures. The commission's final report presented more than 100 recommendations, including an earnings tax proposal that voters passed as one of the first steps towards rebuilding the city's infrastructure and neighborhoods. This community involvement proved so valuable that citizen committees are now appointed on an ongoing basis to advise a variety of city departments. The lasting benefit of this civic exercise is an engaged public, involved in the long and difficult task of making public infrastructure contribute to community revitalization, from economic prosperity and social vitality to the physical quality of the city's neighborhoods.

The success of these efforts rests on the recognition that infrastructure is created by our collective efforts and represents our collective wealth. As such, it becomes the public domain that we own and share. Therefore, infrastructure should be designed as bridges to link us rather than walls to divide us.

But this hasn't happened. In our eagerness to use infrastructure primarily to maintain the wealth of central marketplaces, we have ignored the possi­bility of using those same systems to reinforce and access the "common" wealth of an interconnected city. As Cornell West describes,

We must focus our attention on the public square-the common good that

undergirds our national and global destinies. The vitality of any public

square ultimately depends on how much we care about the quality of our

lives together. The neglect of our public infrastructure and sewage systems,

147

WILLIAM R. MORRISH AND CATHERINE R. BROWN

bridges, tunnels, highways, subways and streets-reflects not only our myopic economic polities, which impede productivity, but also the low priority we place on our common life.

Already, many city residents have lost control of their streets to commuter traffic and their trees to disease and pollution. In the outer suburbs, residents find that they have lost their cherished natural resources, the woodlands , fields, and streams that enhance the quality of their lives and underpin the basic economic value of their home investments.

In their place, they find woodlands cleared and streams channeled into box culverts for warehouse discount stores, office parks and massive highway rights-of-way, whose traffic spews heavy metals and noise into the air. As we lose these features, we lose our sense of security, orientation and, most importantly, our sense of community. The resulting isolation makes it easy to abandon established neighborhoods for "safer" places ever farther out on the metropolitan fringe, thereby despoiling even more open space.

Where do we go from here?

Infrastructure systems must improve both the functional and physical sense of connection between neighborhoods and the larger community. We should give priority to infrastructure projects that address basic inequities between inner city and suburban neighborhoods. Despite the fact that inner-city residents are taxed at higher rates to maintain the basic core of water and power systems that serve the outer edges, they are increasingly segregated from the growing range of jobs, goods, and services available to middle- and upper-middle-class residents in suburban areas. Dispersed employment centers in the suburbs are poorly serviced by transit, restricting job access to low-income families without auto­mobiles. Yet, highways subdivide inner-city neighborhoods to accommo­date job commutes for suburban workers crisscrossing the metropolitan area via the central core. The narrow utilitarian focus of past infrastructure has created invisible barriers between economic classes and ethnic groups, reinforcing in some cases and causing in others a de facto form of class segregation.

To balance the existing investment disparity between city and suburb, new development growth should be forced to pay the true cost of infra­structure at the expanding metropolitan edges rather than simply the construction price tag. Before we consume more raw land, we should successfully capture the full potential of our existing investment. We should give priority to new infrastructure projects that build on past investments and seek to reunite the segmented parts of the commonwealth-projects that link and integrate development with compact, mixed land-use development.

148

r

t

! e 1 t

(

t

c

! a c

r

a 11

G

n a

! (

s

! r 1,

c

11

c

a s

a t

!

II

I 11

INFRASTRUCTURE FOR THE NEW SOCIAL COMPACT

Transportation planning should begin with the premise that we must reduce travel time to work, through consolidating destinations and pro­viding convenient access to alternate modes of travel. We must recognize that there is no such thing as truly free parking (even if the driver does not

pay for the privilege). Instead we must promote projects that underwrite employer-based transportation programs, to incrementally change worker habits and locational decisions. "The key to integrating our thinking about transportation and land use," says planner Joel Woodhull of Southern California's Rapid Transit Development, "is to focus on access rather than mobility. Mobility means going faster and farther. Access means getting to more places conveniently. With access, the focus is on places. Mobility focuses on paths, often to the neglect or even the destruction

of places." We should encourage infrastructure projects that evolve out of public

participation. Traditionally, the supply side of the economy-businesses and manufacturing-has been seen as the primary client of infrastructure development so that we've produced industrial systems rather than a public realm for community. The primary users of infrastructure, however, are average citizens. Federal programs should encourage projects which incorporate their needs and demands while improving service and the

quality of place. Public participation, if properly orchestrated from the beginning, does

not add cost. On the contrary, in the long term it increases the effectiveness and acceptance of the system as a cultural amenity and minimizes the possibility of protracted citizen protests and environmental lawsuits. Countering our municipal funding crises, public participation produces solutions that leverage each dollar to improve both service and quality of place. And public involvement produces educated users of the system, reducing abuse and decreasing maintenance costs, while it builds the long-term commitment necessary to support both construction and operating costs.

Finally, to assist this dialogue we need to develop a new vocabulary for infrastructure that enlarges functional engineering terms to include words that describe the cultural and social life of a community and its qualities of place. Because we have viewed infrastructure as the servant of industry and national defense, the terms for its planning and design are technical and standardized. To create infrastructure that bridges the diverse social patterns and needs of our metropolitan commonwealth, we need a language that transforms "arterial streets" into community avenues and "detention ponds" into neighborhood parks.

INFRASTRUCTURE: ENHANCING ECOLOGICAL FUNCTION

Until now, we've favored the conventional simple engineering approach, in which infrastructure denies the richness of natural systems, ultimately

149

WILLIAM R. MORRISH AND CATHERINE R, BROWN

stripping away complex wealth from the landscape. The engineering approach creates a single-use network that moves goods, services, and people over the land through capital-intensive concrete and steel conduits that neither give nor receive much support from the landscape through which they pass. Unfortunately, we have crisscrossed the American land_ scape with such simple systems in our attempt to create a standardized national system of support for our nation's participation in the global market. In the process we have ignored the diverse physical and cultural features of regional geography in our construction of a rational infra­structure system.

On the other hand, an alternate complex design approach mimics ecological function and the spirit of the landscape, and builds what J.B. Jackson, in "The Word Itself," calls "synthetic organizations of space [that] have been so well assimilated into the natural environment that they are indistinguishable and unrecognized for what they are." This system seeks to use the ecological features, functions, and character of the landscape to benefit both society and natural systems. Designed to be integrated into the landscape, complex systems are also multiuse, providing twice the benefit from a single investment.

Using this new definition of infrastructure, even the most mundane and "un-public" of urban functions-the sewage-treatment plant-can become a beautiful ecological civic landmark. In 1990, the village of Alvo, Nebraska, hired Minneapolis artist and engineer Viet Ngo to create a sewage-treatment system. Using a serpentine form inspired by Native American earthworks, Ngo created a sewage-holding pond covered with a carpet of duckweed. As plant-massings drive from the pond's intake pipe to the outflow in an adjacent lake, they metabolize excess algae while absorbing and bio-concentrating harmful chemicals. "We chose it because it costs less and we believed it would be environmentally kind," says Barbara Hollinger, village vice chairperson, in a 1991 Artnews article on the project. "The results have just been excellent, cleaner and clearer in appearance, and it's prevented any algae's growth. And it totally transforms the area. It no longer looks like your typical sewage lagoon at all-it's beautifully artistic."

This project and others like it clearly point to a new type of artistic ecological engineering that provides public service while adding beauty and fiscal value to our civic investment. We have created infrastructure to turn "straw into gold," to control nature and make it the supporting foundation for our lives. As we collect the gold, we should not forget 'to maintain the fields that grow the straw. Even in a global "information" market, we still need living forests to supply the timber for our houses and replenish the air we breath with oxygen.

If natural resources are fundamental to our lives, then the maintenance of natural systems should be the starting point for the creation of future

150

INFRASTRUCTURE FOR THE NEW SOCIAL COMPACT

infrastructure. Without clean water, air, healthy forests, and unspoiled land, the infrastructure will cease to run and thereby sustain our existence. The recognition that our infrastructure facilities and natural systems are inter­dependent, and that long-term viability of the systems is necessary in order to support social and economic stability, changes the way we define the

word landscape. Infrastructure is more than a utility. It is a foundation for our sense of

being and place and carries within its veins the lifeblood of many different communities-the neighborhoods and habitats for human, plant, and animal

populations. Ultimately, there is no economy without a living nature. Without it, infrastructure ceases to function, the marketplace withers and dies, and individuals lose the common ground of community.

Where do we go from here?

Whenever possible we should choose multi-functional systems over single­use systems, favoring projects that function ecologically and use natural systems as extensions and components of an infrastructure. For one thing, they are more economical in the long term. Multi-functional systems tend to require the acquisition of land, but those additional property costs can be off-set in the long-term municipal maintenance costs of concrete and steel systems. Moreover, lands bordering a green system command higher property values. We should encourage the development of this kind of infra­structure that serves economic growth at the lowest long-term municipal

cost. We should favor projects that enrich and connect existing communities of

plants and animals. Highway and pipeline corridors move people and oil, but they can also provide pathways for plants and animals on their cyclical migrations. Biologists believe that these pathways will become increasingly important as the climate band shifts, driving the movement of many species northward. Corridors connecting species-rich patches may become vital to preserving our existing bio-diversity. We should, therefore, promote pro­jects that improve the "living" viability of the natural systems, projects that use native plant materials and provide protection against the invasion of foreign plant materials that undermine local plant and animal habitats. Native vegetation planted along the East Coast interstate system, for example, could have stalled the spread of the destructive kudzu vine that has used the highway corridor as an expansion route on its devastating northbound rampage to engulf and damage power lines and bridges, thereby increasing local maintenance costs.

We should develop infrastructure projects that protect and replenish natural systems. Water quality is rapidly becoming the number one environmental issue for both the public and private sector. Just how much environmental health and economic recovery are connected is perhaps best illustrated by the struggling economies of Eastern Europe. A 1992

151

WILLIAM R. MORRISH AND CATHERINE R. BROWN

Environmental Science and Technology article estimated that 70 percent of Czechoslovakia's waters are heavily polluted; 30 percent cannot even support fish. Much of the country's water is unusable for industrial Con~ sumption, not to mention damaging to plants and animals.

Just as people cannot survive drinking water contaminated with mercury and other persistent contaminants, industry cannot thrive without larger quantities of clean water. Incentives should be given to infrastructure pro~ jects that clean their wastes as much as possible on site and recharge local water resources. Excellent models found abroad, and to a limited degree in the United States, make effective use of the natural systems that use hyper-accumulator plants to clean polluted water and soils.

We must use every means to encourage infrastructure projects that aggressively recycle products and reclaim places. Newark, New Jersey Mayor Sharpe James instituted an aggressive recycling program that both cleans up the city and unites citizens in a common civic mission. Plastics are collected and recycled into new public benches for neighborhood parks and streets. The public works department in Phoenix shreds thousands of discarded tires, recycling them into a new road~surface material to replace asphalt. This recycled material has the added advantage of increasing traction and reducing solar heat gain on road surfaces.

As we recycle our waste into new products, we should also reclaim the used sections of urban areas and the riches of their natural systems buried long ago by early metropolitan expansion. In Minnesota, the Romose~ Washington Metro Watershed District is working with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the City of St. Paul, the University of Minnesota's College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, and residents of the Phalen neighborhood to revitalize this older, inner city neighborhood on the outskirts of downtown St. Paul. The strategy was:

1 To create a neighborhood commercial transit center and park to serve as a new focal point for this mid-density ethnic community.

2 To remove a deteriorating, crime-ridden 1960s shopping center and reclaim the pre-development wetland beneath the site.

3 To daylight piped and buried portions of Phalen Creek that run through the community and rebuild this ecological waterway system.

Not only would the waterway provide recreational green space within the Phalen community, it would also enhance habitats for herons and waterfowl that use the area as a flyway. At the same time, this low-cost ecological water-management and treatment system would filter and clean water upstream, improving the quality of the water that ultimately flows into the Mississippi River.

In our haste to built metropolitan landscapes, we have buried many streams, wetlands, woodlands, and other natural systems. The Phalen neigh-

152

INFRASTRUCTURE FOR THE NEW SOCIAL COMPACT

borhood project demonstrates that just as we recycle our aluminum cans, we can also reclaim from underneath the architectural solid waste of past development. Furthermore, we can reclaim the natural systems that will help us manage our waste while rejuvenating local economies, the social fabric, and the beauty of our neighborhoods.

We believe that the role of infrastructure in President Clinton's new com­pact is to create the systemic framework for each community's mission: to nurture economic productivity, cultural expression, and social equity while preserving- and replenishing natural resources. Infrastructures can become the vessel to carry forward the dreams of a new compact into physical reality, supporting a diversity of animals and beings across large, complex metropolitan regions. The collective wealth of our community's infra­structure binds us together and provides a public landscape within which we, as individuals, find our identity and common ground between each other and supportive natural processes.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Appleyard, Donald, Kevin Lynch, and John Myer. The View From the Road.

Cambridge: M.LT. Press, 1964. Braunfels, Wolfgang. Urban Design in Western Europe: Regime and Architecture,

900-1900. Trans. KJ. Northcott. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988. City of Phoenix, Department of Public Works. 27th Avenue Solid Waste Management

Facility, 1991.

Cronon, William. Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West. New York: w.w. Norton & Co., 1991.

Forman, Richard T. and Michael Godron. Landscape Ecology. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1986.

Illich, Ivan. H20 and the Waters of Forgetfulness. New York: Heyday Books, 1985. Jackson, John Brinckerhoff. "The Word Itself." In Discovering the Vernacular Land­

scape. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984. -. "The Public Landscape." In Landscapes, Ervin Zube (ed.). Amherst:

University of Massachusetts Press, 1970. --. The Necessity for Ruins. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1980. Kastner, Jeffery. "The Duck Weed Factor-Devil's Lake, N.D." ARTnews 90:2

(February, 1991). Le Corbusier. The Radiant City. New York: Orion Press, 1963. Lopez, Barry. Arctic Dreams. New York: Chares Scribner's Sons, 1986. Morrish, William. "The Urban Spring: Formalizing the Water System of Los Ange­

les." In Modulus 17, David Gobel and Mary Mead (eds.). Charlottesville: Uni­versity of Virginia Architectural Review, 1984.

Morrish, William and Catherine Brown. "Western Civic Art: Works in Progress." Places 5A (1988): 64-77.

Morton, H.V. The Fountains of Rome. New York: MacMillan publishing Co., 1966.

National Council on Public Works Improvement. Fragile Foundations: A Report on

America's Public Works, February, 1988.

153