When you look at infrastructure what do you see?
My boss had just returned from a visit to Rome and was telling me about his trip. What particularly inspired him was the Trevi Fountain. As he spoke of its magic, its beauty, its romance, its glory, his eyes lit up, his voice was reverent. Not surprising you might say since tourists always rave about the Trevi Fountain. Except that he was a Hydraulics Engineer and what he was describing to me was the fountain’s hydraulics! Engineers see things differently! I have seen my brother, another engineer, stare at the luggage carousel at the airport, fascinated by the design of the metal plates that enable it to turn the corners so smoothly. As an economist, it is unlikely that I would, but for them, have ever thought of the ingenious design of the Trevi’s hydraulics or the luggage carousel, but now I cannot help but see it too. That’s the thing, once you see things through someone else’s eyes, you can never ‘un-see’ it. You are forever changed, and the richer for it.
This is important for us as infrastructure decision-makers, and it is the rationale for the collaborative structure of ‘Talking Infrastructure’. We need to be able to see through the eyes of the engineer, the economist, the scientist, the environmentalist, the planner, and… even the artist. (Our picture today is from the free photo sharing site, Flickr. To see other pictures of rust or infrastructure decay through the eyes of the artist photographer, just type in infrastructure decay.)
So our task today is to consider how many different minds we can engage.
Let us multiply our perspectives.
Although now retired, I used to be an architect. I know engineers see things as engineers, not as everyone else sees things. I can avow that architects see things differently from engineers and everyone else, but closer to everyone else than engineers.
We should be able to engage with a very wide audience. Unfortunately, architects, one of the asset creation agencies, probably won’t be among them. The AIA website lists asset management as a related industry architects can pursue. Effectively, no interest.
An important observation! But I would like to make a distinction between asset management (essentially the management of the existing portfolio in alignment with the objectives of the organisation, largely but not entirely an engineering function) and infrastructure decision making (IDM), which is what we are looking at here. IDM is about making the best choices for future infrastructure (or for modifications to existing infrastructure to cope with the changing future) and it needs input from all disciplines. This really should be very interesting for architects.
How can we let them know that it is?
This Sydney Morning Herald article from 2010 on world class waterfront city shows one way some architectural firms engage in Infrastructure Decision Making with stakeholders and community.