Sunday, December 9, 2012
infrastructure and inspiration
The easy answer is that American airports are banal, at best. This was not always the case – Miami’s old seaplane terminal at Dinner Key used to be a tourist destination in its own right, and Eero Saarinen’s terminals at JFK and Dulles are still pretty inspiring. But for the most part we’ve abandoned any sense that these gateways to our cities are supposed to be inspiring civic monuments. They’ve been reduced to shopping malls with electronic body scanners.
How can infrastructure inspire us again? One promising medium is renewable energy. A field of wind turbines cresting a tree-less ridge and banks of photovoltaic panels set between rows of crops are the visual expression of a society embracing the difficult transition to more sustainable sources of energy. Expanded public transit systems could serve not only as ways to relieve congestion and reduce energy use, but as means to bring greater beauty and cohesion to our streetscapes. Eliminating the tangle of power and communications wires above our streets would make our systems less fragile and our cities less chaotic.