Infrastructure networks are the systemic and complex over|underlay required to support a city and its associated region. Infrastructure is a key determinant of future urban form, and plays a significant role in establishing a more desirable and sustainable condition for urban growth and change. Infrastructure defines the natural and built ecosystem of the city. The convergence of multiple blue|green|gray+white infrastructure systems indicates the new geography of the city.
Detroit is rich with technological infrastructure supporting manufacturing, movement of goods and services and associated human settlement. Defining “blue|green|gray+white”: green infrastructure describes natural flora and fauna and related habitats, man-made landscape and greenway networks, precipitation collection, and criteria-rated buildings, sites and neighbourhoods; blue infrastructure describes the watersheds, floodplains, wetlands, and hydrology, gray infrastructure is entirely man-made, including highways, roads, rails, digital technology, and associated environmental impacts, and white is associated with telecommunications, energy generation and delivery. The resultant complex networks range in scale from the local and regional, to international.
As a result of the research, analysis and design work funded by the Ford c3 grant, we have identified a relationship between infrastructure and vacancy in the city. This relationship has prompted our interest in making recommendations for generative uses for vacant land, focusing on hybrid renewable energy, target mixed-use density, water cycle management and reforestation, in support of sustainable community and economic growth.
Detroit has a wealth of empty space, though little intelligence or understanding of it. There is a global, morbid fascination with Detroit’s emptiness. The media and design disciplines have mythologized it in imagery, and obsessively mapped and quantified it. Vacancy perpetuates entrenched social, economic and environmental disparities and inequities. Yet, in the midst of formal ‘right sizing’ and informal urban agricultural initiatives, a constructive civic dialogue about the role of vacancy in the future of the city has yet to begin.
We wish to prompt the dialogue. A new urban geography and ecosystem are required. Vacancy is a new infrastructure for the city. Vacancy, as it manifests, in land, buildings and infrastructure, is generative. We recommend productive, temporal uses for vacancy, to generate the next urban form of the city. In the same manner that grid and infrastructure become generators of urban form and use, vacancy can guide future urban form in Detroit.
We define infrastructure networks as the systemic and complex overlay required to support a city and its associated urbanized region. Connections occur largely through blue|green|gray+white infrastructure networks that span geographic, ecological and political boundaries. Vacancy emerges as the ubiquitous infrastructure in each of these typologies.
As we conclude the Ford c3 grant, we launch a research agenda focused on generative infrastructure and its role in sustainable urbanism. Stay tuned!