Information Exchange: Events

Integrating Art, Design and Engineering in the Public Realm

City College of New York - Brooklyn, NY, USA
May 7, 1999

ICIS was a co-sponsor of this event with City College of New York's, University Transportation Research Center.

Modern public works often like variations on the same gray theme: a concrete box surrounded by the ubiquitous chain-link fence. Civil engineering practice in the United States (and elsewhere) commonly discounts aesthetics as an unnecessary or irrelevant "frill" in favor of more code-bound utilitarian design. However, this perspective overlooks opportunities to use visual thinking and intuition that underlie the artistic approach as a strategy to improve efficiency, public awareness and acceptance, environmental factors and the overall quality of the public realm.

Achieving these added benefits demands a collaborative design process that incorporates a broad range of sensibilities and skills - besides the purely technical. Several American cities have added visual artist to infrastructure design teams to challenge engineering assumptions and to expand creative opportunities. Such collaborations can be complex and contentious. However, the experience of these cities from vantage of their respective public officials and public work managers suggest that the positive results substantially outweigh the extra effort.

Artist Michael Singer has personally collaborated in the design of several major infrastructure projects throughout the United States. Nancy Connery has extensively studied and written about such collaborations. She also has a long history in infrastructure policy, planning and finance. Together they will present specific examples and discuss the implications for engineering education and practice.




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