Infrastructure and time: what future should we build?

How long does it take to build new infrastructure and why does this matter? Are we imagining useful infrastructure futures? Given pressing social and environmental needs, what should we build?

On Monday 24 October, the Intellectual Forum was joined by Dr Shoshanna Saxe, Associate Professor in the University of Toronto’s Department of Civil & Mineral Engineering.

She argued that, while making priorities about infrastructure investment is increasingly a focus of politics and government debates, too often the discussion and imagining of infrastructures futures is divorced from practical considerations of time.

New projects and systems cannot be wished into place, she said, and once built infrastructure is near permanent.

A recording of the talk is available on the College YouTube.

More about the speaker:

Dr Shoshanna Saxe received her PhD from Jesus College, Cambridge in 2016 and is now an Associate Professor in the University of Toronto’s Department of Civil & Mineral Engineering, and Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Infrastructure. She investigates the relationship between the infrastructure we build and the society we create to identify opportunities – and pathways – to better align infrastructure provision with sustainability. Her research focuses around two main questions: 1) What should we build? and 2) how should we build it? Her research and commentary have been featured in media outlets such as The New York Times, The Toronto Star, The Financial Post, and Wired, including “What We Really Need Are Good ‘Dumb’ Cities” (New York Times, July 2019).