Superstar infrastructures

Do you leave an offering in thanks for your Internet connection every morning? Do you praise the impromptu supply chain formed by the felicitous cooperation of many, and the technical support that sustains the services thanks to which your grandmother’s groceries can be delivered? Were you aware that the hot water streaming from your shower doesn’t appear by magic? Then, you are ripe to join the highly select group of infra proponents. Invisible so long as the sailing is smooth, infrastructures offer a revealing barometer of our societies’ ability to adapt in times of crisis. Fated to meet with overload or obsolescence, they are now attesting to our ability to bounce back, as well as to our dumbfoundedness in those first few days when we had to grapple with the unforeseeable.

1 – Covid-19, or infrastructure in the limelight

By definition, infrastructure is the invisible foundation on which our day-to-day activities rest. In times of crisis and with the fear of product scarcity hanging over the cities, this discreetness no longer has its place. As the difficulties in sourcing medical equipment or, in contrast, the good performance of food supply chains have demonstrated, the crisis has exposed failures as well as successes. Optimistically seen, the current pandemic is providing an opportunity for a thorough review of our most fundamental networks. For many, this is the dream opportunity to redirect our infrastructures in the face of ecological emergencies or growing inequalities. Green deals, fighting technological fractures, or renovating health infrastructure: is there hope for a major upgrade?

To Rebuild Our Towns and Cities, We Need to Design a Green Stimulus (Jacobin)

Could COVID-19 give rise to a greener global future? (WEF)

COVID-19: Emerging technologies are now critical infrastructure – what that means for governance (WEF)

Makhtar Diop : « La crise du coronavirus révèle cruellement l’inégale répartition des bienfaits de la technologie » (Le Monde)

Selon la Smart Building Alliance, il faut établir un plan Marshall de l’infrastructure numérique (Batirama)

2 – An increasingly (geo)political infrastructure?  

Donald Trump has called for a $2 trillion investment plan for infrastructure. China is expected to direct its stimulus plans towards developing and maintaining buildings and infrastructure for mobility and telecommunications. For countries, infrastructure is both an internal catalyst and a weapon of foreign policy. Today, it is China that is deploying the most ambitious strategy in this regard, with the ambition of taking away from the US weakened global leadership.

‘Infrastructure Week’ Returns as Trump and Democrats Eye Post-Virus Jobs Plan (NYT)

China’s ‘new infrastructure’ projects, explained (technode)

Hitachi anticipates wave of Chinese infrastructure spending (FT)

Why infrastructure is the only way to fight a COVID-19 recession in the US (WEF)

Inside China’s controversial mission to reinvent the internet (FT)

China’s ‘Health Silk Road’ Gets A Boost From COVID-19 (Forbes)

3 – An anti-urban pandemic? 

In an article published under a deliberately provocative headline, The New York Times describes Coronavirus as a harbinger of the death of cities. Central to collective living, the urban way of life and the hyperconnection characteristic of it will, it asserts, be undermined by the crisis. In a thoroughly argued response, OUPblog calls attention to the historical versatility of cities. The very rare examples of abandoned cities should not obscure the memory of how Carthage resurrected, as did San Francisco in 1906 and Hiroshima in 1945. The authors conclude optimistically, quoting Kipling’s words: “the cities rise again”. In their view, it is not so much a matter of planned resilience (almost always ineffective), as of an “ultimate faith in the human project”, embodied by cities.

Can City Life Survive Coronavirus? (NYT)

The city will survive coronavirus (Oxford University Press)

4 – Mapping, the infrastructure of crisis information

Under closer scrutiny than ever, and more limited than ever, travel in the time of the Coronavirus has profoundly changed our cartography of the world. With lockdown the operative word of the day, the major digital tools such as Google Maps are adapting their services and now pointing users to drive-up or click & collect services. Home-made” maps are becoming touching and specialised testimonials to the changes taking place in a world where life is being transformed. Geolocalised data tracking the progress of the pandemic have become daily dashboards for millions of people. From large-scale initiatives to small scribbled drawings, the rapid development of cartography reminds us – echoing Zola’s words in The Downfall – that to win a war, you must know your territory:

“How idiotic it all is! How can one fight in a country one knows nothing whatever about?’” The colonel made a vague, despairing gesture. He knew very well that maps of Germany had been distributed to all the officers as soon as war ever was declared, whereas not one of them had a map of France in his possession.”

Waze, Google Maps, Apple… Les services de cartographie repensent leurs fonctionnalités à cause du Covid-19 (L’Usine Digitale)

Your Maps of Life Under Lockdown (Citylab)

Coronavirus Outbreak Maps Rooted in History (Citylab)

Meet The Team Behind The Coronavirus Tracker Watched By Millions (NPR)


What do we do?

The VINCI Group created Leonard to tackle the challenges posed by the transformation of regions and lifestyles. Our goal is to unite a community of key stakeholders in order to build the city of the future together.