A4: Infrastructure

Team Lead:

Pierre Filion (University of Waterloo)

Team Members:

Jochen Monstadt (Utrecht University)
Lisa Drummond (York University)
Roger Keil (York University)
Shubhra Gururani (York University)

Research Context, Methods and Goals:

Research on suburban infrastructure (supply, demand, governance, risk, vulnerability) consists of comparative case studies based on review of global debates on the relationships of infrastructures and suburbanization.

(a) Technical infrastructure research focused on the development of both water/wastewater and transport infrastructure, paying special attention to developments and place-specific problems in Toronto, Frankfurt, Delhi and Hanoi. It examined technical or institutional innovations in these sectors (e.g. decentralized water/sewage systems, car-free communities), processes of liberalization or privatization, social equity, and ecological sustainability in suburbs. Developments like growth and shrinkage, gentrification, or public budgetary crises can challenge traditional forms of infrastructure provision and require new technical/institutional solutions and (sub)urban policies. Work here focused on the interplay of suburban development and infrastructures, identifying and comparing specific suburban infrastructure regimes and their place-specific problems, vulnerabilities, potentials, and shifting governance structures.

(b) The experience and practices of everyday life are influenced by the institutions and social infrastructures of everyday life. This research mainly took place in Hanoi, Vietnam but links into Canadian and South African projects, exploring the context of social infrastructure, decision-making about the provision of social infrastructure, the roles of various actors, and the strategies employed by households and individuals as they cope with insufficiencies. When state actors are unable or unwilling to provide some or all social infrastructure in the suburbs, how do suburbanites cope? Does the organization and provision of social infrastructure then occur outside the state, and do such spontaneous, small-scale cooperative moments mitigate the lack of hard infrastructure such as electricity and water, which are often not available in unplanned suburban settlements?  This research provided much-needed exploration of the social infrastructure of new suburbs, asking how suburbanites engage with, adapt, and self-provide institutions, facilities, and services. Research included surveys and semi-structured interviews with residents, officials, and others responsible for or engaged in the provision of such infrastructure.

Research & Dissemination:

The Global Suburban Infrastructure Workshop was organized jointly by the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University and the University of Waterloo's School of Planning. It took place at the University of Waterloo, June 14 -16, 2015.

Critical Perspectives on Suburban Infrastructures: Contemporary International Cases edited by Pierre Filion and Nina M. Pulver was published in 2019 by the University of Toronto Press.The book adopts an international approach, grounded in case studies from three continents and discusses infrastructure issues within different suburban and societal contexts.

Presentations & Publications:

Conference and Workshop Presentations

Publications and Other Dissemination