Ecological infrastructure in a critical-historical perspective : from engineering social territory to encoding natural topographyEcological infrastructure in a critical-historical perspective : from engineering social territory to encoding natural topography
Faculty of Arts. History
Centre for Urban History
Environment and planning : A : international journal of urban and regional research. - London, 1974, currens
48(2016):2, p. 367-390
University of Antwerp
The tandem of infrastructure and landscape ecology is increasingly presented as the design strategy par excellence to address the risk society. Staged in explicit contrast to engineering as discipline disrupting natural balance, discourses endorsed by landscape and ecological urbanism propagate a new and improved post-carbon and post-Euclidian infrastructure. The broad objective of the article is to examine the accuracy of this claim of moving infrastructure from the realm of engineering to urbanism, and appraise the proclaimed methodological shift from determining top-down logics to bottom-up argumentation. In the first part, the recent design culture and techniques are analysed in relation to historical sociotechnical concepts and methods that deal with infrastructure, programmatic uncertainty and environmental control. More specifically, current design approaches are studied against the background of early nineteenthcentury urban interventions that aspired to curb impending epidemics and social crises in the emerging metropolis. In the second part of the paper, historical analysis is exchanged for a theoretical reflection about the relation between analysis basically the measuring of the land (topography) and project or the organization and control of the terrain (territory). The article concludes with an active projection, in order to explore new perspectives for recent developments in urban design and call for a fundamental reappraisal of how our design attitudes and techniques should be integrated with the political and social context.