Building Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure to Support Future Cities


Scale, rather than complexity, is the most visible feature of civil engineering projects. At any time, a global race is underway among cities and countries to become hosts to the tallest skyscraper, the longest bridge, or the largest airport. Record-breaking dimensions are the key feature of how civil engineering projects are usually covered in mainstream media and the biggest attraction for new entrants to the profession. In contemporary cities, however, civil engineers encounter a new family of engineering challenges that are of a different nature to the ones associated with the engagement with a single construction project. As urban agglomerations have reached unprecedented sizes, they have also reached unprecedented levels of complexity. This has sparked a revolution within the civil engineering profession, seeking to find new roles for civil engineers in addressing urban complexity challenges. This chapter initially provides a historical overview of the evolution of civil engineering that has been taking place alongside the constantly evolving nature of urbanization (Section 2). Section 3 describes the role that infrastructure plays in shaping how civil engineering perceives the urban. Finally, key issues that currently affect engineering projects are outlined, as well as the transformations that have been occurring in the civil engineering profession in order to better engage with projects within urban settings (Sections 4 and 5).

Defining the Urban: Interdisciplinary and Professional Perspectives