Lights out in London

As the summer wears on, it seems like we’ve put all the craziness of earlier this year behind us. Critics are no longer proposing OMA-designed windmills for Marina del Rey. Good thing. It’s time to look carefully at the lessons of the Infrastructural City and think about its conclusions since, well, they aren’t pretty.

Make no mistake, there is no happy ending in the Infrastructural City, no easy recipe for fixing our infrastructural ills. This has puzzled a generation of critics, who’ve seen the book as Marxist, or overly cynical* or confusing. The problem for them is that they grew up in the last decade, in an era where there was always a technological innovation around the corner. But that innovation is about to run aground in a vicious tangle of Actor-Network-Theory.

To be clear, this isn’t a golden opportunity for designers. It’s a crisis that we haven’t seen since the 1980s and its not just in the Los Angeles. The same forces of NIMBYist political stalemate and neoliberalist deregulation that are undoing the Southwest can be found worldwide. How about daily sub-Saharan-Africa-style power shortages in the UK within an decade or two? The Economist has more here.

Meanwhile, the New York Times marks the sixth anniversary of the 2003 New York City blackout with a photo essay. Maybe we’ll have a chance to see more of this in our new bad future.

*Which doesn’t make sense to me. I hold Peter Sloterdijk’s opinion of cynicism, which is knowing that what you are doing is wrong but doing it anyway. Thus, most architecture and most architecture criticism is cynical. Most green projects are cynical. Whole Foods is cynical. How is raising the alarm cynical?

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