Bridges & Tunnels / Healthy Cities
Healthy City Design 2017
Living bridges: healthy urban infrastructure as a multi-use economic asset
By Tye Farrow | 09 Jan 2018 | 0
Infrastructure has traditionally been viewed as an ongoing maintenance expense, which is chronically underfunded. Bridges, for example, are in a perpetual state of disrepair, but what if they were designed as long-term, multi-use, revenue-producing assets rather than single-function liabilities? Tye Farrow elaborates.
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Worldwide, cities with a high quality of life are rapidly becoming unaffordable to those people who are essential to the future of thriving, resilient and healthy communities.
Infrastructure has traditionally been viewed as an ongoing maintenance expense, which is chronically underfunded. Bridges, for example, are in a perpetual state of disrepair, but what if they were designed as long-term, multi-use, revenue-producing assets rather than single-function liabilities?
Building multi-functional infrastructure in cities was conceived long before car-centric planning norms dominated our thinking about urban bridges. The Rialto Bridge in Venice and the Ponte Vecchio Bridge in Florence combine infrastructure with human- scale, walkable mixed-use urban assets. Beginning in the 15th century, shops were built along the sides of the Rialto Bridge so as to generate rental income for the State Treasury, and to generate revenues to help maintain the bridge.
Could we similarly build on the structurally over-designed foundations of our existing bridges? We still think of infrastructure and buildings in the same way we did in the 1900s. Our approach to meeting the increasingly complex demands of urban life hasn’t changed with the times. The future of accessible, affordable housing and multi-use infrastructure will be built with lighter, more flexible, less expensive and more resource-efficient construction materials and methods. A game-changing bonding and building system, Grip Metal has opened new possibilities for innovation.
By marrying this transformational technology with the need for affordable, vibrant housing and the infrastructure of our existing bridges, we have the ability to transform these passive structures. They will spark new life, animated with diverse activities, including new technology-enabled lightweight housing and services. We have the ability to bridge our weak urban links between neighbourhoods to forge stronger community connections in urban centres.
At a time when governments are wrestling with big decisions about infrastructure spending, economic stimulation and promoting a more inclusive society with healthy housing options, we can’t use the same thinking or we will get the same tired outcomes. Instead, we must take advantage of new approaches to create cities that are affordable to people who are essential to the future of resilient, healthy communities; cities that promote density, inclusiveness, wellbeing, affordability, and which – above all – thrive.