The nation’s aging infra­struc­ture has come under intense scrutiny in recent years, most notably fol­lowing the col­lapse of the Inter­state 35 bridge in Min­neapolis in 2007. Mean­while, the Obama admin­is­tra­tion has made infra­struc­ture one of its top pri­or­i­ties, with the pres­i­dent most recently calling for a multibillion-​​dollar invest­ment in roads, rail lines and airports.

But a new book pub­lished by North­eastern University’s School of Archi­tec­ture urges pol­i­cy­makers to keep future infra­struc­ture needs in mind, as well as reme­di­a­tion. The book, “Infra­struc­ture and the Future: Assessing the Architect’s Role,” explores the nation’s infra­struc­ture con­cerns and how archi­tects can help address them. It was edited by assis­tant pro­fessor Amanda Lawrence and lec­turer Eliz­a­beth Christo­foretti, with intro­duc­tions by Lawrence and George Thrush, director of the School of Architecture.

In an inter­view, Thrush acknowl­edged that main­taining America’s existing infra­struc­ture is crit­ical, but said it is also imper­a­tive to develop suc­cessful strate­gies with an eye to the future.

So much of the cur­rent debate is about how we need to go back and fix infra­struc­ture projects built since the 1930s, which led the way to eco­nomic expan­sion and improved pro­duc­tivity across the country,” Thrush said. “But if we’re not going to think about the future until we get caught up on this mas­sive main­te­nance backlog, then we’re never going to think about the future. We need to catch up and look for­ward at the same time.”

The book grew out of a con­fer­ence held at North­eastern last year that exem­pli­fied the University’s mis­sion to pursue use-​​inspired research aimed at addressing real world prob­lems. The con­fer­ence brought together national experts to address issues such green infra­struc­ture, sys­tems infra­struc­ture and civic infrastructure.

Archi­tects, Thrush said, are a vital voice in the con­ver­sa­tion about our nation’s infra­struc­ture needs and how to prop­erly invest in them. He pointed to designers’ role in cre­ating the Ten­nessee Valley Authority dams built in the 1930s that became the face of rural elec­tri­fi­ca­tion. Today, he said, designers can improve the way we expe­ri­ence infrastructure—for example by cre­ating common stan­dards for cell phone towers, parking and transit facil­i­ties and wind farms.

Thrush said these are exam­ples of how intri­cately infra­struc­ture is woven into our daily lives, and the book seeks to remind people of this reality.

All of us depend on a number of layers of infra­struc­ture already, and it’s a good idea to pay atten­tion to them and try to improve them,” he said.