Infrastructure with Soul!?

Tom Vanderbilt is author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do, and in a recent news/interest article, he framed the acceptance of public transit as an infrastructure question; that is, infrastructure with soul, that is still efficient for moving human bodies around.

It is a striking comparison he makes in the opening image:


Planned cities like Dubai (left) are considered high system/low empathy while places that grew more organically, like the favelas of  Rio (right) are low system/high empath.

Then he goes onto to ask, can you make infrastructure that is efficient, but still has soul?

A planned-from-scratch place like Dubai, or Le Corbusier’s “Radiant City,” Leadbeater argued, was “high system/low empathy,” while the favelas of Rio, which grew up organically and are sustained by a web of informal networks, could be considered “low system/high empathy.” Then there are places—Lagos, he suggested—where neither axis is particularly optimized. How, he wanted to know, could you design for both?