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May 22, 2014

Reinvent Infrastructure Systems: Professor Hillary Brown

Hillary Brown

Her new book, ‘Next Generation Infrastructure,’ advocates system-level thinking and holistic approach to replacing aging public works

America’s aging infrastructure systems not only need replacement, they need to be reinvented, argues City College of New York Professor of Architecture Hillary Brown in “Next Generation Infrastructure: Principles for Post-Industrial Public Works.” Washington-based Island Press released the book earlier this month.


To make smarter decisions about revamping outdated infrastructure, architects, engineers, urban planner and public officials need to think at the systems level and adapt a holistic approach, contends Professor Brown, who teaches in City College’s Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture. Seeing infrastructure as highly connected systems that work better together will result in projects that are more cost effective, less environmentally damaging and more resilient.

Professor Brown makes her case by presenting little-known examples from around the world of projects that do more with less and are designed for longevity, even in the face of climate change. In addition, she lays out five principles that should guide future infrastructure development:

  • Systems should be multipurpose, interconnected, and synergistic.
  • Infrastructure should contribute few or no carbon emissions.
  • Infrastructure should work with natural processes.
  • Infrastructure should improve social contexts and serve local constituencies.
  • Infrastructure should adapt to predicted changes resulting from an increasingly unstable global climate.

Adopting these principles will yield multipurpose, low-carbon, resilient infrastructure that meshes well with natural and social systems, she adds.

About The City College of New York
Since 1847, The City College of New York has provided low-cost, high-quality education for New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines. More than 16,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in: the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture; the School of Education; the Grove School of Engineering; the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education, and the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership. U.S. News, Princeton Review and Forbes all rank City College among the best colleges and universities in the United States.

About the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture
The Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at The City College of New York is the only public school of architecture in New York City. It offers programs in Architecture, Urban Landscape Architecture, and Urban Design, and has a student population of approximately 350. Its emphasis on the urban situation as a generator of ideas about the appropriateness of programs and forms in the city landscape is one of the school’s most original aspects. Architecture studios currently pursue programs that are civic, institutional, residential, and commercial allowing the student an in-depth experience of these project types as they are projected into the urban landscape of New York City.

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