Good Design Over Grand Gestures: Fixing U.S. Infrastructure Calls for a Smarter Approach

Aaron Betsky | Van Alen Institute

Previously published in Van Alen Report 19: America's InfrastructureVan Alen Reportis an interdisciplinary digest published semiannually by Van Alen Institute that gathers expert perspectives on subjects that are redefining society’s relationship to cities and the built environment. Van Alen Report 19 offers a sweeping exploration of how leaders may repair U.S. infrastructure in ways that support better and more just outcomes for all.

The idea of rebuilding America’s infrastructure often inspires ambitious plans and political promises, but grand aims are so often hobbled by flawed execution. Projects like the “Big Dig” in Boston or the San Francisco Bay Bridge’s eastern span are infamous due to massive delays and cost overruns. For our final perspective, Aaron Betsky, Dean of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, recommends that the United States rethink its approach to getting the infrastructure it needs. He presents a sweeping vision of how, through new technology and design, the nation may find ways to improve the performance of existing infrastructure and build greater value into the new. Betsky also imagines a future where design interventions may be small, flexible, and tactical in nature, but, when linked together through thoughtful and inspired planning, may yet achieve an impact that is greater than the sum of their parts.

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