It's one thing to say it. That infrastructure is a product of its place and its time. But it's something else to travel somewhere new, and to see combinations that you haven't seen before. To see familiar pieces of infrastructure that are accomplished in completely unfamiliar ways, or just as interesting, to see modes of infrastructure that don't feel familiar at all.
A few months ago, I took a trip to Singapore, and so much of what I noticed were the things overhead and under foot. The ones that are built once, and then gradually fade into the unremarkable march of everyday life.
It's important to note: I'm not an explorer. I'm not a historian of distant lands. A lot of what catches my eye are the things I happen to notice around wherever I might happen to be; but I don't tend to seek out sights. This is not an exhaustive account of Singapore, by any means.
Sometimes I do get lucky, though. I happened to be walking past a road as some pavement work was being done, and having seen plenty of this work in the US, I was struck by the juxtaposition of the somewhat dingy curb and bumpy median divider, against the quality of the smooth, newly-laid pavement and the cleanliness of the paving machine that was helping to lay it.
Every paving machine I've ever seen in the US has been absolutely covered in tar. And any paving project next to a painted curb would also involve the curb being repainted. I was surprised that the road markings were clearly new (which usually would take a lot longer in the US), but the paint on the curb was clearly fairly old (which would tend to happen sooner).
That juxtaposition of old and new, of dingy and shiny, carried through in other places as well. I guess shiny isn't quite what I mean, but it felt like there were so many places where some buildings' architecture, color palette, and sheer preponderance of glass façade, seemed to fall in sharp contrast against the more quotidian patched concrete, slightly-unkempt shrubs, and utilitarian pedestrian bridges of the world.
It was as if an environment of everyday function and commotion also held aspirations of glory, just over the horizon.
Of course, that distant world of gleaming steel and glass was within reach, at least as a tourist. My local friend brought me to the ArtScience Museum, which borders an enormous glass-enclosed mall in a higher-fashion portion of the city. This was a place where the architecture seemed to call attention to itself. Where straight lines were few, but curves were oh, so many. Where everything was reflective, even if not in the "know thyself" kind of way.
On our departure, we walked along a mall that was spotless and sprawling. Where a lightshow would have awaited after sunset, and a giant acrylic dome funneled water (and, presumably, many other discardables) into a hole at the bottom. Who knows where it went?
The heights were so lofty. The buildings that stood above the horizon even still were so shiny. So glassy…
Sometimes you have to go find some color to feel like you can feel something again. Y'know?
Sometimes a little texture can do a body some good.