Urban Infrastructures:

Criticality, Vulnerability and Protection

International Conference of the Research Training Group KRITIS
at Technische Universität Darmstadt, Germany

7th-8th February 2019

Cities are the major sites and physical nodes in the infrastructurally mediated flows of water, energy, waste, communication, people, goods and services. Networked infrastructures have become increasingly critical for urban life. Their smooth operation is a prerequisite for the well-being of urban populations, and for economic prosperity and political stability in our cities.

However, their smooth functioning is not a given. Due to their complexity, interconnectedness and strong interdependency, these systems are highly vulnerable. The failure of a subsystem can cause serious cascading malfunctions within and across the system boundaries. A long power outage in a city can result, e.g., in the malfunction of water supply and wastewater disposal, and the breakdown of traffic flows and telecommunications, which in turn can have severe economic consequences and result in the failure of emergency and safety systems.

Obviously, there is a need for protecting critical infrastructures (CIs), taking into account their specific characteristics as socio-technical systems and their embeddedness in urban space. Besides engineering perspectives, the social sciences and the humanities are needed in order to assess the challenges and requirements of CI protection. Since 2016, the Research Training Group KRITIS at the Technische Universität Darmstadt has been carrying out multidisciplinary research on this topic. Its programme is based on concepts from Science and Technology Studies (STS), considering the interrelatedness of social/human and technical/material factors. In particular, protection strategies should be developed or assessed that take into consideration the criticality, vulnerability, and resilience of critical infrastructures in their interrelatedness and their embeddedness with urban space.

In its first international conference, the Research Training Group will bring together civil engineers, computer scientists, urban and spatial planners, architects, sociologists, political scientists, historians and philosophers as well as practitioners from public administration and operators of critical infrastructures.

The aim of the conference is to elucidate five different perspectives on urban CI protection in multidisciplinary panels. These perspectives are:

  • Governance
  • Spatiality
  • Temporality
  • Safety and Security
  • ICT Solutions in Emergency Management.

Each panel consists of invited speakers from the Research Training Group as well as from further experts.

Additionally, there will be three keynote lectures by internationally renowned scholars, namely

  • Per Högselius (KTH Royal Institute of Technology Stockholm)
  • Christoph Lamers (State Fire Service Institute North Rhine Westphalia)
  • Jon Coaffee (University of Warwick, Coventry; New York University)

Here you can find the complete programme.