It can’t have escaped your notice that some of the most remarkable historical relics are in fact infrastructure projects. The Romans left behind their aqueducts, stadiums and exceedingly straight roads, the Victorians their bridges, train stations and railways and as for our Stone Age predecessors, well their modest project just off the A303 in Wiltshire is still exercising transport planners today. We often look back at these bygone feats of engineering and technological application and extol the ingenuity that brought them into being. But what about their contemporary counterparts?
The huge portfolio of upcoming infrastructure projects in Britain is no less impressive and we shouldn’t shy away from celebrating them. World-class undertakings like Crossrail, London Gateway port and the Nine Elms regeneration are in full swing and with a new runway at Heathrow, HS2, Sirius Minerals’ Woodsmith mine in North Yorskhire and a host of brand new energy generation getting off the mark it’s not hard to find fine examples of engineering ingenuity.
Yes, these projects can sometimes be controversial and the planning system calls for sensitive design alongside extensive community and stakeholder involvement. But, are we missing something here? Instead of treating this engagement as a chore, should we in fact be using the need to engage as a golden opportunity to shine a spotlight on the engineering process, the challenges of the projects and the benefits they can bring?
What we have today that our ancestors didn’t have is ever increasing and exciting ways to show just how impressive these projects are. And not just in their scale, but in their many intricacies and examples of human ingenuity. The developments being made now will pave the way for new technologies and skills in the future – it’s exciting and clever, so let’s tell people about it.
The evolution of 360° photography, virtual reality, live streaming, drone filming, and many others, have all opened up brand new ways to bring information to life and reach a much wider audience than ever before. This simply wouldn’t have been possible even five years ago.
Who knows by telling them in an engaging and relevant way using media that appeal to all generations, we might go some way to attracting a new generation of young people into engineering and technology.
Crossrail is a prime example of a project that’s doing this. Take a look at its website – it’s a fantastic engagement tool; highly accessible to your everyday layperson and making inspired use of video, imagery and interactive infographics. And it recently turned a monumental amount of excavation work, mandated by the planning process, into an exhibition on the archaeological findings of the project. Currently on display in the Museum of London Docklands, it’s just another way of encouraging the public to connect with its work.
Our Roman and Victorian forebears built things not only to last but to showcase their notable talent and unparalleled skill. If available then, would we have seen the construction of the Clifton suspension bridge splashed over instagram? Given IKB’s nose for the spotlight, I have no doubt that we would.
This is a real boom time for UK infrastructure – there hasn’t been such an abundance of large-scale projects in recent memory. The opportunities they present for positive profiling are there so let’s capitalise on them whenever we can and celebrate some truly inspiring work.