Civic Lesson: New Social Infrastructure

By NYCxDesign

Editor’s Note: What is “soft infrastructure” and why is it important? In this article, originally published by Architectural Record, Diana Lind introduces the social counterpart to the steel and concrete that usually come to mind when we think of infrastructure. In this thoughtful, detail-rich article, Lind presents a range of projects that address social and economic segregation, touching on some of the larger questions that surround the design of civic spaces and the phenomenon of “trickle-down urbanism.” Image: Studio Gang’s primer for transforming police stations (top) and rec centers to better engage the community. Image courtesy Studio Gang.

By Diana Lind

The need for “soft” or civic infrastructure in our cities and communities has never been greater. It comes at a time when declining social capital has left much of America divided, suspicious, and aloof. Today, one-third of people report having no interactions with their neighbors, and average Americans spend up to five hours a day watching television. The share of the population that says, “Most people can be trusted” has fallen from a majority in the 1970s to about one-third. And income inequality and wage stagnation have decimated the middle class, further dividing society into haves and have-nots. [Read more]