Trauma and Rebuilding in the Digital Electronic Era
William J. Mitchell
Anthony J. Townsend
When cities have suffered major destruction in the past, through fire, earthquake, bombing, and so on, the physical rebuilding task has involved (1) recreating network infrastructure -- transportation networks, water supply, etc., and (2) replacing residential, commercial, industrial, and other floor space supported by that infrastructure. The task of reconstructing Lower Manhattan after the September 11 attacks obviously has these aspects, but there are some additional ones as well. First, the reconstruction of digital telecommunications networks is now a critically important infrastructure issue -- particularly given the nature of the enterprises that were displaced. This reconstruction began to unfold almost instantly, since such networks -- particularly the Internet -- are increasingly designed to be self-repairing, and to route automatically around damage. Secondly, at least some of the dispersal of enterprises that followed September 11 may turn out to be irreversible; to reduce future vulnerability, displaced enterprises may choose greater dispersal and facility redundancy, supported by sophisticated electronic telecommunications, rather than return to place all their eggs in one basket.
Mitchell and Townsend explore the new conditions and strategies of urban rebuilding in the digital electronic era, examine what has actually happened in Manhattan so far, and make some suggestions about achieving high levels of urban resilience in the future.
School of Architecture and Planning, Joint Program in City Design and Development
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