Goodbye Infrastructure Guy




In the 1960s you were young and growing rapidly. We supported you as we do all youngsters. It was the right thing to do. But now you are grown and need to take your place in the support and protection of others.  We have already passed the point where we should have weaned you and helped you grow to full independence. That is our fault. We weren’t seeing the bigger picture. But if we continue to baby you, to protect you, to put your needs ahead of others, we will end with a flabby, overgrown infrastructure, absorbed in itself, incapable of recognising its true purpose – which is to support the wellbeing of the community. 

This possibility is being brought into clearer view by Covid 19. The global pandemic is having a negative impact on infrastructure demand which, while we may expect some recovery, won’t recover completely. It follows that increasing the supply whilst demand is falling will not produce the economic recovery effects we seek. We need to think again.

So, Infrastructure, the time has come for you to take your rightful place in the world, to underpin the four community wellbeings – social, cultural, environmental and economic.  It is time to consider how best you can serve these wellbeings. You need to be clear about your purpose. Simply ‘being’ is self indulgent and will no longer cut it.  Like all adults today you need to change and develop, learn new skills, and to do things not done before.  Growing bigger is no longer the objective, it is now time to grow wiser, to demand less and provide more.  For this you need a new image.

In your youth, you were brash and grey and analog – all concrete and steel. But now we say goodbye to this old image. In your maturity, you need to be self effacing, indispensable, but in the background and not the foreground. In this world, you are no longer grey, but white – the invisible whiteness of digital technology, of human intelligence, of caring, and yes, of love.  No longer the focus of attention, it is now your role to help others grow and shine. 

You are now the pot, the support, the soil. 

It is community wellbeing that must grow. 

Your job is to nurture! 

Welcome to Adulthood!

Welcome to adulthood!

One Thought on “Goodbye Infrastructure Guy

  1. Jeff Roorda on October 22, 2020 at 9:36 am said:

    A though provoking piece – thank you Penny
    This highlights that we need to come back to the full project lifecycle. 1- Identify a need, 2 – design the best solution, 3 – build it and then maintain and manage it. 4 – replace or remove the old that no longer meets our needs and consumes resources. I wonder whether we sometimes split these phases into disconnected silos and have create stories about the building phase like “building grey infrastructure creates growth”.
    What if the past growth was not created by infrastructure. What if the need for infrastructure was generated by 2 world wars that destroyed infrastructure and created an environment for hypergrowth with technology, industry and demographics all contributing to the need for grey infrastructure and generating a lot of unplanned side effects like pollution, species extinction and global warming.
    The key point is see Penny making is we now have different needs and need to “grow up”. The 4 phases of the project lifecycle remain the same, but we now need to understand the needs of future generations and design, build and manage the best solutions based on available evidence. Those solutions are unlikely to be the same now as the post 1950’s growth era. Our current problems are different and much harder. Big fires, big storms, changing climate, new viruses are harder to solve than how do deal with rapid growth.

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