Welcome to A People’s Guide to Infrastructure in New Haven!

Content for this site was researched and written in 2014 by students of “Infrastructure:  Politics and Design,” an undergraduate seminar at Yale University listed in the departments of Architecture and Political Science.

Students were split into teams by subject area (Transportation, Water and Waste, Energy, Parks and Public Space, and Telecommunications—the five chapters of this guide) and asked to develop three themes:  a physical and historical description of infrastructural artifacts in each area; a political and social analysis of how they were made and used; and a consideration of future challenges and proposals.

Why a People’s Guide?  Infrastructure may appear as a neutral framework for human settlement, urbanization, and daily life.  The sheer scale and, at times, grandeur of these artifacts add to a sense of their inevitability.  The way that infrastructure networks are arrayed, however, is not inevitable.  Infrastructure takes shape in a specific political and cultural setting with uneven impacts on the distribution of services, resources, and opportunities across the metropolitan landscape.  Our goal here is to represent infrastructure in New Haven not as a series of “Great Works” that celebrate technology and progress (certainly innovation is part of the story) but to focus on questions of equity and accessibility in a critical appraisal of the networks that unite and divide.  In this way, we hope to inspire citizens of New Haven and elsewhere to develop historically informed attitudes toward current and future proposals.  The upshot is empowering.  The future is not predetermined.  We cannot afford to take infrastructure for granted and must advocate for evenness at every turn in the road.

There is another important way in which this is a People’s Guide and not simply an authoritative transmission of information:  it relies on your participation to share different interpretations and stories about infrastructure and to maintain its currency.  I encourage you to post comments, corrections, and queries in the sections we have provided at the bottom of each page.  Wide latitude will be granted (yes, comments must be reviewed) and I expect to cultivate a shared respect for the usefulness of this forum.  With the Web, we have developed an infrastructure, if you will, for studying infrastructure; but it is elastic and flexible, not rigid or monolithic.  We turn it over to you for engagement and critique and look forward to future discussions about infrastructure in New Haven.

Elihu Rubin
Assistant Professor of Architecture, Urbanism, and American Studies
Yale University