Spatial Infrastructures

This semester we will be addressing the idea of the productive city through the design of a single building: an urban machine.  

Since the mid-twentieth century, there has been a continuous evacuation of industry from the city, slowly bleaching our cities into monocultural playgrounds without the economic engines on which they depend. While this may in part be attributed to economic factors, its root lies largely in misplaced planning decisions. Today, we realize more and more that the vibrancy, resiliency, and sustainable development of a city depends on its mix of functions, not only in creating jobs and diversity but in placing the sources of production close to where we live, work, and play.

In the last decade, Zurich has been at the forefront of redesigning its future with the aim of retaining and increasing light industries in the heart of the city, incentivizing the development of a new typology: that of vertical industry. These are not spaces of an industrial past but that of an ongoing present. The greatest distinction in this new typology is the speculative nature of it. Industrial buildings were and still are often built for specific companies. In Zurich, these are now being built with no particular tenant in mind but with the ambition for a mix of tenants who can also change over time. Most importantly, these are centrally located structures, integrated into neighborhoods and with a public presence, contributing to the life of the city. 

Through the design of a production building we will imagine an infrastructural architecture that addresses use, comfort, flexibility, and collectivity. We will also look more specifically at sustainability through the lens of durability, resilience, and performance in the search for a new architectural language. The semester-long studio will be organized in two parts, beginning with a research and testing phase during which we will investigate precedents and visual references which may inform the conception of this new building type.  We will also explore spatial thinking, from physical to digital models, collage, and photography to understand relationships between structure, image, and space. In particular, we will engage tools and techniques relative to a virtual semester. The second part of the semester will be the development of a vertical factory in Zurich-West, a rapidly developing post-industrial neighborhood.

Students will be evaluated on their participation in studio as well as the quality of their research, project development and final presentations.