Don’t Repair Infrastructure, Reprogram it for New Use

In conjunction with the arrival of the Reprogramming the City book, Metropolis asked me to write an Op-Ed / Opinion piece for them: “By Simply Repairing Infrastructure, We’re Missing Huge Opportunities to Make Cities More Resilient and Responsive to Citizens’ Needs” which outlines why reprogramming existing assets is so vital for cities:

The new urban reality is one of limited resources, space, and budgets. By continuing to simply scrap or patch old infrastructure and physical assets, cities continue down a path of wasted resources, unsustainable practices, and lost opportunities. Reprogramming provides a chance to meet increasing urban needs in resourceful, sustainable ways by maximizing the use of the city’s existing assets.

Repairing infrastructure is the still primary goal for most cities and agencies, but a short-sighted one. Designating something for repair opens a window of opportunity. Budgets are allocated, crews are assigned, and logistics are planned for the work. This is where so much more can happen: instead of repairing a bridge or any piece of infrastructure to maintain its original function, cities should repair and reprogram it to perform additional functions.

You can read the full piece on Metropolis here, and learn more about the Reprogramming the City book here, which features 44 of the most inspiring projects from 17 countries that repurpose and reuse existing urban assets to benefit the city and its residents in new ways.

Already sold on the idea? Great! You can buy the book here! (Thank you, thank you!)

I’ll close with the final quote from the piece:

With a seemingly infinite roster of infrastructure in need of repair in the U.S., there is immense opportunity to weave a reprogramming mentality into the process to catapult the country’s infrastructure from adequate functionality to a provider of extraordinary services….

By exchanging preconceived notions of what something is in the city with the reprogramming mindset of what something could be, limitations disappear, and the existing urban landscape is transformed into a limitless platform of possibility.