The Public Infrastructure of Work and Play
Public infrastructure tends to be thought of as roads and bridges, dams and canals, school buildings and court houses. From that perspective, it can be considered the ‘hard infrastructure.’ But it also includes parks and town squares, public art and rails-to-trails, swimming pools and beaches. The ‘soft infrastructure.’ Both types of infrastructure are critical to enhancing the economic development potential of cities as well as improving their quality of life. Because public infrastructure is the ‘built environment’ of cities, it is permanent and the impact of building infrastructure is felt for many generations. Whether by shaping and molding the cityscape and the growth patterns of a city or by providing places for play, relaxation, and quiet contemplation, public infrastructure shapes city life and connects residents, neighborhoods and businesses. As such, the planning of the built environment is fraught with political pulls and tugs about what ought to be the physical and emotional feel of the city of the future, what constitutes the ideal place where people’s work and play meet, what sits at the intersection of art, politics, and markets.
The 2017 UIC Urban Forum is designed to raise the issues of connecting the hard and soft infrastructures, of the built environment’s lasting impact on a city’s quality of life as well as its economic development prospects, and the design of the future city.