Posts tagged with "industrial architecture":
This compendious, extensively illustrated slab of a book tackles, among other things, the development of the factory system, working conditions and working class resistance, utopian planning and modernist architectural design, the effects of suburbanization of industry, just-in-time production and containerization, fashion, urbanism, gentrification, and craft through such an onrush of dense information that it is often hard to ascertain exactly what the book is about. The nearest thing to a common thread—other than chronology—is an exploration of the factory in the city. That is, the role of industry in urbanism, what it means for a city to be a place of material production, how that production is housed and how its workers live and work, and, crucially, whether or not there is a future for urban manufacturing after 70 years of decentralization and inner-urban de-industrialization in Europe and the United States.
This central thread is so interesting that much of the rest of the book—basically a history of design and factories, familiar from the likes of Gillian Darley’s Factory—could have been cut away to make the book more lean. The eclecticism of the source material could do with major pruning, and the editing is often careless: Robert Owen’s Clydeside Utopia was New Lanark, not New Harmony, the account of Chicago slaughterhouses in The Jungle was written by Upton Sinclair, not Sinclair Lewis, to name two of several slips. Nonetheless, this excess might be the point—an appropriately daunting mesh of interlinked processes and stories. The question of why the factory left the city is put down to wartime paranoia and social planning; Rappaport takes the Jane Jacobs line that zoning industry out of inner cities was unnecessary and damaging to urban economies, which may have been true, but as recent histories like John Grindrod’s Concretopia might remind us, urban industry in dense 19th century cities like Glasgow was often extremely toxic and unsafe to the working class communities who had to live next door to it. However, her case here draws also on more radical sources, such as French Marxist philosopher Henri Lefebvre’s assertion of the “right to the city,” and especially the inner city, being cleared of undesirables in Lefebvre’s 1960s Paris. The end result of “the removal of industries away from public view” was also the removal of certain groups of people. As counter-examples, she traces a history of integrated factory settlements, like Berlin’s modernist Siemensstadt, to suggest that there were other possible approaches than zoning and suburbanization.
Beginning with the wartime U.S.—with its vast, single-story complexes like Willow Run—and continuing even through socially experimental factories like Volvo’s more democratic, collaborative factory at Kalmar, the factory left the city and settled into sprawling, off-motorway sites, expansive of land and elusive of view. Perhaps the most exciting parts of the book are Rappaport’s studies of some “vertical urban factories,” as opposed to the flat, hidden, exurban factories where most things get made—in the west, at any rate. These go from 1820s Manchester, where, in Schinkel’s words, “the life of the city runs along the massive houses of the cotton mills, to Manhattan’s astonishing, multifunctional Starrett-Lehigh Building, where a train could enter the building from West 27th Street and proceed to the elevators located in the central core, load or unload onto trucks and the exit onto 28th Street,” and to more recent examples like Zaha Hadid’s BMW Leipzig, where workers walk past the souvenir shop on their way to work. These genuinely do feel like a better way of designing production into cities than placing “pancakes” on the edge of motorways—a means of planning that makes production and distribution networks (and their workers) visible, and by implication, changeable.
However, many cities outside of the U.S. and Europe really are made up of vertical urban factories even today—Shenzhen and Dhaka being a particular case in point. The 400,000-strong Foxconn factory, integrated with eight-to-a-room dormitories is one she describes at length, while the multi-story textile factories of Dhaka are sketched out more lightly, though the fact that the worst industrial accident in decades, at Rana Plaza, took place in a vertical urban factory would seem to temper its validity as a means to create fairer cities. Although Rappaport never loses sight of the consequences of design and industrial processes on actual workers’working conditions, the emphasis falls too much on best practices. These include the new vertical urban factories that exist in the west—craft beer breweries in Canada, bike factories in Detroit, American Apparel in the U.S.—which use a seductive combination of adaptive re-use, renewed craft traditions, and inner city sites, which somewhat masksthe fact that they’re just as much part of the process of inner-city gentrification as Willow Run was part of post-war suburbanization. None of them can even begin to offer the quantity of jobs once offered to the cities they stand in that the motor industry or textile industry once did; she points here to a gap between celebrated middle class “makers” and invisible proletarian“‘workers.” The last quarter of the book features many examples of beautifully designed, sustainable, semi-automated actories integrated into the city; but whether these could ever have the role in most people’s lives that the factory once did is a very different matter.
Vertical Urban Factory Nina Rappaport, Actar Publishing, $64.95
Perforated steel and translucent glass balance privacy and pop.For their Center for Manufacturing Innovation (CMI) in Monterrey, Mexico, Metalsa, a global manufacturing firm that specializes in automobile and truck chassis, did not want just another factory. Rather, the laboratory and testing facility, located in a state-sponsored research park adjacent to the Monterrey airport, was to be a "showpiece," explained Brooks + Scarpa Architects principal Lawrence Scarpa, "not just for their clients but from a work environment point of view, and a sustainability point of view." Despite the many challenges inherent to building across the United States-Mexico border, the Los Angeles architects succeeded in delivering a LEED Platinum design wrapped in a striking double skin of translucent glass and perforated steel panels. The facility's uneven sawtooth profile is the product of both historical and contextual references. "They are an industrial company, and I always loved the old warehouses with the north-facing clerestories, designed back when there was no electric lighting," recalled Scarpa. "That was what I was thinking about before I even went to the site." His first visit to Monterrey confirmed his instinct. "The mountains there are really sharp and jagged like that—it was an immediate concept for the building," said Scarpa. Like their 19th-century antecedents, moreover, the clerestories provide daylight and allow hot air to accumulate high above the inhabited spaces, thus reducing reliance on artificial lighting and cooling. The resulting form had one major drawback, however. "The issue we were faced with was that the primary way you enter the building is from the west, so we would have a broad face in the worst possible thermal position," said Scarpa. To solve the problem of solar gain without sacrificing the sawtooth roofline, Brooks + Scarpa implemented a double skin with an outer layer composed of perforated steel panels. With a wraparound sunscreen in place, explained Scarpa, "we could have a translucent skin behind it, but could modulate light and heat gain." Several factors influenced the perforation pattern on the outer skin. It began as an abstraction of Metalsa's corporate identity, said Scarpa, but evolved to respond to programmatic requirements. Perforations of different sizes and densities reflect the need for more or less privacy. Areas related to proprietary research and development are more opaque, while the office spaces cantilevered over the transparent northwest entrance benefit from the additional daylighting allowed by broader perforations. CMI's translucent inner skin of fluted glass refracts light, preventing glare from interfering with computer-based work. To prevent the occupants from feeling trapped in a windowless box, the architects carefully modulated the distance between the envelope's two layers. "When you're on the interior, it doesn't just look like a blank wall," said Scarpa. "When you're on the inside, you can't see through it, but you can see shadows move on the translucent surface." Designing for an out-of-country client is bound to produce hiccups, and the Metalsa project was no exception. For instance, Brooks + Scarpa had initially imagined that the auto giants would fabricate the perforated metal skin in-house, but turned to another supplier when disrupting the company's manufacturing flow proved cost-prohibitive. The architects nevertheless made the best of the situation, streamlining their vision to fit the situation at hand. "The technology that was available to us in Mexico is not overly sophisticated, so from the get-go we decided to take a more simplistic approach, utilizing a multi-layered skin," said Scarpa. "It was easy to construct, and it's not difficult to understand."
A geometric corrugated metal and glass facade integrates industry and nature.Barkow Leibinger's original scheme for HAWE-Werk Kaufbeuren, developed for a competition several years ago, was "a completely crazy origami thing," recalled partner Frank Barkow. But upon winning the commission and learning that the factory's owners wished to build it in a single phase, "we had to be careful not to kill them with the budget," he said. "We really dumbed it down." The architects did, however, hold on to their original pinwheel plan, with production wings rotating around a communal courtyard. Inspired by Le Corbusier's "green factory"—a humanizing alternative to the "black factories" of the nineteenth century, which prioritized the flow of goods over the experience of the workers—Barkow Leibinger's design opens the HAWE plant to the Bavarian countryside with a geometric facade of corrugated metal and glass. In addition to drawing upon Le Corbusier's "green factory" concept, Barkow Leibinger also looked at industrial designs out of northern Italy in the 1960s and 70s, which in turn led them to experiment with a prefabricated concrete frame. "Usually we do steel," explained Barkow, "but in this case the client liked the precast concrete. It's a dirty industry—there's a lot of milling going on." The factory's exposed mechanical systems are integrated directly into the structure, passing through perforations in the horizontal beams. "It's not a very finicky factory," said Barkow. "We just put it where they needed it." Steel-framed shed roofs sit atop the concrete. Skylights look to the north, while the roof's south slopes are designed to accommodate photovoltaic panels. "The north-facing shed is a classical industrial solution," noted Barkow. "It brings in a lot of light, and saves a lot on artificial lighting." The arrangement of solids and voids on the facade emphasizes the resulting sawtooth profile. The architects carved the envelope into a repeating pattern of triangles and trapezoids, clad in glass and corrugated sheet metal, respectively. Most of the building's glazed surface is translucent white channel glass, with vision glass in the sliver of space closest to the ground. At the end of each wing, a broad horizontal window features a larger central section of channel glass framed by floor-to-ceiling panels of transparent glass to either side. "This is a kind of Corbusian idea: large end facades that look into the countryside," said Barkow. The factory wings are designed to be expansible, the end facade deconstructed and then rebuilt after the installation of additional bays. Barkow Leibinger gave HAWE-Werk Kaufbeuren's extra-production facilities distinct treatments. The lobby and office area is "a more blocky structure," said Barkow, with a transparent curtain wall. The cafeteria, too, plays up the connection to the courtyard with plentiful glazing. The architects designed the "edge spaces'" facades to contrast—but not clash with—the factory floor, explained Barkow. "They're adjacent spaces, but quieter and cleaner." HAWE-Werk Kaufbeuren earned a silver rating from the DGNB (German Sustainable Building Council) thanks in part to the architects' emphasis on daylighting and use of triple glazing, plus careful attention to the window-to-wall ratio. "Nothing spectacularly complex" was involved in the sustainability strategy, said Barkow. Indeed, the very simplicity of the design led to its success, practically and conceptually as well as in terms of environmental performance. From a complicated initial scheme to their final, streamlined, solution, Barkow Leibinger pared the plan and material palette to the bare essentials, with an eye to speeding construction while keeping the "green factory" ideal at the fore. "It's a large project in this landscape," said Barkow. "It's at a different scale, and more robust, than the factories we typically work on."