Infrastructure is a mirror that reflects our civic values,
cultural identity and collective hopes
for a better future...
AFTER THE STORM:
Rebuilding Cities on a Reflexive Urban Landscape
William Morrish presented "After the Storm: Rebuilding Cities on a Reflexive Urban Landscape" in 2008 at the Woodrow Wilson Center Washington, D.C. In it, he charts the history the led to failures of both infrastructure and civic government in New Orleans as a result of Hurricane Katrina.
"Long before Katrina arrived," he writes," another storm had been quietly brewing— out-of sight, out-of mind, and mostly underground."
Morrish talks up architecture critic Herbert Mushamp's call to invert the typical design approach to infrastructure: "Instead of burying a city’s vital organs out of sight, design could visualize a place for them on the cultural landscape. Into sight, into mind."
Morrish's response to his study of Katrina's affect on New Orleans directly addresses the didactic potential of infrastructure. Here and elsewhere, his work explores infrastructure as a “social covenant" that can be read to reveal social dynamics and instruct citizens about the meaning, value and function of the systems which support their communities.
Infrastructure, for Morrish, offers key lessons in public responsibility. It functions as "a cultural repository of memories and future hopes."
"Before we can effectively rebuild our aging infrastructure, we must first rekindle public awareness of its central role in our collective existence. Its functional and aesthetic values determine the vitality of the urban landscape that adjoins all of our cherished homes, schools, businesses and institutions. Natural systems and utility networks need to become integral and interdependent parts of that urban landscape." - William Morrish
Morrish's vision of a "resilient infrastructure" maps onto a number of the notions of "noncompliant, contemporaneous learning" that we're working with here:
"Developing resilient infrastructure begins with collecting a wide range set of data, translating that data into visual material that is accessible to the community so they can respond—either through individual efforts or as collective activities to support sustainable operations Every infrastructure investment should reinforce and vividly highlight the physical and cultural connections all of the city’s neighborhoods and residents and the surrounding Delta wetlands whose natural resources sustain them all. Besides their functional values, these varied systemscan become cultural utilities and civilizing amenities that strengthen neighborhoods, job growth and local ecological systems. The products from this type of design development can be tailored not only to meet the specific local needs and site conditions but also to educate users on how to maintain and utilize their system through its entire life cycle. After construction, project plans become ongoing user manual as that are continually updated as conditions change or new information becomes available. Campaigns for “green objects “ and green imperatives do not automatically add up to sustainable design and development. The process demands a much more comprehensive approach and continuing effort to integrate built and natural systems in ways that create reflexive landscapes. It is a messy process that requires close attention to human ecologies as well as the built and natural systems that support them. Above all, it needs an open environment that constantly reinvents itself and creates new ideas that engage local and global audiences." - William Morrish [emphasis added]
Morrish echoes Elizabeth Groz's description of inventivist learning and making:
. . . synthesis of prior sensations into new ones, coagulation, recirculation, and transformation of other sensations summoned up from the plane of composition . . . the process of compounding or composing, extracting from the materiality of forces, sensations, or powers affecting life, that is, becomings that have not existed before and may summon up and generate future sensations, new becomings . . . --Elizabeth Grosz