The Industrious City: Rethinking Urban Industry in the Digital Age

Cities have always been places where commerce and production, working and living, are physically and functionally integrated. Only with the rise of industry have zoning regulations been introduced to separate these functions in space. But what is the role of such regulations when industry becomes more digitalized, small-scale, agile, increasingly emission-free and based on innovation more than mass production? What is the mix of working, living, and leisure, when mobility and energy consumption should become more sustainable? And what are the opportunities in a volatile world, characterized by digital disruption, migration, demographic shifts and an increasing urban-rural divide, to create urban areas based on social equity and resilience?

This interdisciplinary studio will use a large industrial site in Zurich-Oerlikon, Switzerland, as a test case to experiment with spaces, buildings, infrastructures, functions and narratives to envision a radically mixed-use industrial urban area and its context. The 5.5-hectare site is a cradle of Swiss industrial history, at the center of a new part of town and at the core of a political discussion on gentrification. The studio will contribute to rethinking public and private development strategies for urban industry by providing scenarios and project proposals for the stakeholders involved.

Students will make a field trip to Zurich, visit the site and reference projects, and meet with many protagonists of Zurich’s ongoing urban transformation from fields as diverse as industrial production, digital industry, robotics, mobility start-ups, real estate, city administration, politics, urban farming, cooperative housing, creative industry, or open-data activism.

The studio will begin with a series of lecture-seminars to ensure a shared body of knowledge before starting research and design work. The work itself will be iterative and agile so that insights and concepts are accompanied by concrete project proposals, which are continuously refined over the course of the semester.