The Factory and the City: Rethinking the industrial spaces of the developmental city

The studio is premised upon two fundamental ambitions, the recuperation of an idea of the city as a project and the pursuit of alternative forms of urbanization in response to the challenges posed by the developmental city. The former treats the project of the city as a cultural, political and aesthetic act; the latter as a strategic project for urbanization, articulated through its architecture, landscape and infrastructure.

In the first of a two-year research into the changing nature of the spaces for industries and their impact on the city, we will focus on the impact of digital and clean manufacturing in revitalizing and and revalidating a forgotten building type: the factory. The history and evolution of the factory in Singapore, from 1960s to present day, reflects the transformation of the nature of industries and its relation to the city and its economy. The factory was once a polluting, spartan, large shed, exiled to the peripheries of the city. In the late 1970s it was a sterile assembly plant; in the 1990s it was clustered around lush greenery as business parks for research and management; and in the 2000s, collaborative spaces were the de rigueur.

As technologies for digital manufacturing become widely available today, allowing designers and makers to compete with larger industry producers, the spaces required in cultivating and accommodating this growing economic and cultural activity is becoming urgent. These ‘makers’ workshops’ are typically smaller in sizes, a cross between a laboratory, a high tech factory and a design studio. Although they still require heavier floor loading, articulated truck access and higher power supplies, they no longer need to be isolated in designated industrial zones.

At present, due to land shortages and a growing population, Jurong Town Corporation, the statutory board in charge of planning and delivering spaces for industrial activity in Singapore is adopting the strategy to increase the density of industrial land for clean technologies and to relocate polluting and labor intensive ones to the borders between Singapore and Malaysia. As these industrial zones are re-planned, the challenge here is to imagine a factory that can act as a new urban core, a self-sufficient place that can support a dynamic economy in a revitalized industrial zone, and provide cultural and intellectual stimulation; in other words as a city in itself. Thus the design task for the studio is to conceive of the factory as a common framework – with housing, workspaces, cultural and communal facilities, and work spaces that can cultivate a creative maker’s economy.

Open to students of Architecture, Urban Design and Landscape Architecture.

Note: The studio will tentatively travel to Singapore in February 2016. The historical and theoretical underpinning of this studio will be offered by Course DES-03352: Type and the Idea of the City.

Teaching Associate: Simon Whittle

Studio meets on February 4, 5, 25, 26; March 10, 11, 24, 25; and April 7, 8, 21, 22. Online tutorials will be held on the Thursdays and Fridays when studio is not meeting.