Infrastructure's value to economic growth

“The debate over how to fund much needed infrastructure projects is once again centre stage, as the United States and other countries approve stimulus packages that devote significant funds to infrastructure.

Taking the US as an example, many state and local governments have been eager to request funds to create needed jobs in their communities.

But the $100bn or so allocated to infrastructure in the US stimulus plan really is just a first step towards addressing the more than US$2 trillion of US infrastructure needs.

The stimulus money will fund desperately needed shovel-ready projects that should spur immediate activity.

It has brought much needed attention to the state of infrastructure in this country.”

Full story here

This is a great article from the BBC.

Some (like myself) will argue that modern Infrastructure needs to be redefined. A classic definition of infrastructure “basic physical and organizational structures and facilities (e.g., buildings, roads, and power supplies) needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.”

It would be very hard to argue that the arts and entertainment (including sports) isn’t an integral part of a healthy functioning modern western society. Just as traditional concepts of communication in Infrastructure used to mean just Morse and the telegraph line, then the telephone and latterly to include Cellular Networks and Interweb communication, the concept of the houses/arenas of culture and sports must be given consideration.

Others would argue that this is an extravagance, and Stadiums and the like have little or no place in modern infrastructure. I would suggest that these people look at the ‘brand’, economic and social contribution that modern sporting franchises bring to communities in New Zealand. I have witnessed firsthand how much a city will bend over backwards to host a major sporting franchise in North America, with Vancouver recently being granted an expansion of the MLS team to their city. There’s a real civic pride associated with it. Just look at the city when a test match is in town, the ‘cultural and sporting spirituality’ of a community is important today.

Still good story and worthy debate.

1 Comment

Filed under Architecture, Design, Economics, Inspiration, Media, Stadiums, Town planning

One response to “Infrastructure's value to economic growth

  1. Elizabeth

    Worth debating. However, I agree with you Paul – so this is quick spur reply only.

    The Local Government Act has been the cause of some spurious ‘infrastructure’ spending by councils that haven’t quite seen the bigger picture and which are not and will never be in the same league as Vancouver or similar.

    See my last comment at ‘London 2012 Stadium legacy plan’ – here we see local and international ‘Olympian’ people working on several levels, as outlined for their meeting in Queenstown next week – no doubt, concepts for infrastructural development are in the mix.

    Tonight I attended the open lecture hosted by the University of Otago, ‘Exploring the Future University’, introduced by Vice Chancellor Professor David Skegg and Property Services Director Barry MacKay.

    The guest speakers were Andrew Harrison and Steven Smith from the London-based firm DEGW UK, here in a consulting capacity to the university. Their combined lecture marks the commencement of the creation of the new Campus Master Plan.

    Andrew Harrison, Global Director of Research and Learning, started in with ‘Learning to Work, Working to Learn: Design for Educational Transformation’.

    He explored things like immersive and augmented environments, real and virtual blurs between “living learning working”, “City is the Office”, “the new learning landscape”… As we know, it’s not all about buildings, the spaces between are important in many ways, but especially in economic development terms when funding for capital works is limited. What is a school? What is a university? Are they community resources? Are the resources the community? Educational transformation is about supporting mobility, “learning anywhere anytime”…but right now, he said, the prime pieces of real estate are the “limiter positions” of power sockets. How do we support our lives with appropriate technology (basic, enhanced, advanced, cutting-edge) – it’s about changing tools, renewing skills, flexible spaces, in practice and asset zones, blended environments.

    My notes on the lecture are more logical and comprehensive than this, he was opening up the world in ways I always enjoy thinking about.


    A couple of years ago at the DCC well-being forum for Environment (nicely I’m invited to these each year for urban design, architecture and historic heritage reasons), I asked Chief Executive Jim Harland who was leading the feedback exercise if we are planning for new technology in the city.

    Sad to say, I got a blank look then some confusion – because he couldn’t see or estimate the infrastructural future…well thank god some of us go wider than what surrounds us in real time. He wasn’t thinking of cities and places in the “hyper connected world”…not of new interactive technology, fuel systems, mobility systems or power generating systems etc. This felt like the dark ages suddenly. No enlightenment or star shine to head to.


    DEGW’s Steven Smith, UK Director of Architecture and Urbanism, uses a model (in brief here) that combines the notions and inter-relatedness of ‘anywhere’, ‘nowhere’, ‘somewhere’, ‘elsewhere’ to inform ideas of ‘place’. His presentation, ‘Somewhere in Nowhere: The role of place in a hyper connected world’, looked at our sense of place, our ‘rootedness’ and ‘identity’ – from the vernacular (man that comes from the earth) to the modern condition. Knowing full well, as we do, that new technology can affect happily or otherwise our “community of location”. With mobility, with technology, we can inhabit “placeless communities of interest”; but if made a priority mobility can erode our sense of place. He gave various examples to show globalisation seriously impacting on identity and location… No worries, we can design our way through this (and or make more mistakes) but when all is said and done maybe we’re looking at the “dispersed university”…in a fast world should the University of Otago become “a holiday destination” for learning? This and other philosophical positions came and went during Steven’s delivery.


    We’ve all thought about these things, on and off, and wondered how councils, cities, places will develop for change, what sort of infrastructure is needed to render efficiency, well-being, identity and delight.

    The combined lecture was an hour or so of condensed energetic brainstorming, not ‘new’ so much as ‘inspirational’ to have it said out loud to challenge us.

    Later on we’ll move into workshops to test where DEGW and Space Syntax, the other UK consulting firm engaged to help facilitate the master plan, are heading with ‘our place’…noting Dunedin “owns its campus”, the University of Otago already has campuses ‘elsewhere’ and nothing is really contained at Dunedin for the future.

    OK. Where is the proposed stadium in all of that.

    DEGW is a strategic design consultancy operating from twelve offices in Europe, Asia Pacific, and the Americas. DEGW integrates research, strategy, and design to develop appropriate solutions globally, regionally, and locally.

    DEGW addresses the strategic use of space at all scales, from the workplace to the city. By combining strategic consultancy advice with highly imaginative design and implementation skills, DEGW creates solutions and environments that help organisations and their people to thrive.

    Regardless of which sector DEGW is working in, be it corporate, real estate, government, learning environments or health and research environments, the focus is always design for change.

    DEGW originated in Dr Francis Duffy’s formation of the London office of JFN Associates in 1971, a leading firm of space planners with headquarters in New York and a European subsidiary in Brussels. In 1973, Dr Duffy, one of the leading theorists of workplace strategy and design, left JFN to form DEGW in partnership with Peter Eley, Luigi Giffone, and John Worthington. They established DEGW as an independent, London-based architectural and consulting firm, focused on the planning and design of workplace environments.
    Space Syntax provides a unique, evidence-based approach to the planning, design and operation of buildings and urban areas.

    Through over twenty years of research-informed consulting, Space Syntax has developed a powerful technology that demonstrates the key role of spatial layout in shaping patterns of human behaviour. These patterns include movement on foot, on cycles and in vehicles; wayfinding and purchasing in retail environments; vulnerability and criminal activity in buildings and urban settings; co-presence and communications in the workplace.

    The Space Syntax approach empowers people to make informed decisions about the key issues concerning them. The firm’s mission is to help create environments that are socially and economically sustainable.

    Space Syntax is an advanced spatial technology as well as a highly influential theory of architecture and town planning. It was originally developed by Professor Bill Hillier and his colleagues at University College London (UCL), one of Europe’s premier research universities. The network of Space Syntax companies works closely with UCL in shaping knowledge to advance the technology, informing practice by disseminating the technology through training and policy formation and creating places by applying the technology through planning and design consultancy.

    Space Syntax is the world’s first computer-based modelling technique to treat cities and buildings ‘space first’, that is as the network of spaces we use and move through.

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