Volkswagen "Transparent Factory," Dresden, Germany, Henn Architects, 2001. Photograph courtesy Henn Architects. A car in the harness at the final stages of production.
On September 13th, Canada's Design Museum—the Design Exchange (DX)—announces the opening of Vertical Urban Factory, an intriguing exhibit curated by New York-based architectural historian and critic Nina Rappaport. The exhibit studies, chronologically, factories around the world in search of inspired design and inventive architecture. While the exhibition celebrates design, it hopes to inspire visitors to re-consider the function of factories in future self-sustainable cities. With the economy in its current state, Rappaport believes this idea has the potential to create and keep manufacturing jobs domestic, something that seems novel in our globalized economy.
The progression of factory design will be on display along a time line from the very beginning up through the 20th century, with more than 30 projects and 200 photographs, models, diagrams and films on display. Specifically, Vertical Urban Factory will look at boundary-pushing city factories—from Volkswagen's Transparent Factory in Dresden where passersby can actually watch the cars being manufactured, to the definition of functional structure at Henry Ford's Highland Park in Detroit.
Rappaport argues that building vertical factories in urban areas such as these will create a natural feedback loop with enough investment. Reconsidering vertical factories in cities applies to both today's world and the future of self-sufficient cities, because of the role it can play in reviving our economy over the long term.
Inotera Factory, Taipei, Tec Architects, 2004. Photograph by Hiseo Suzuki. Administration façade with semiconductor production space behind (blue tiles).
Outsourcing is often the best way for companies to save money on labor and materials, which is why we see so many manufacturing jobs leave the country. Vertical Urban Factory argues that reinvesting in constructing such vertical factories would result in job creation and green factories, while creating a sustainable urban industrial model. Theoretically it makes sense and would be a huge step in the right direction as we try to get the economy back on its feet and keep jobs at home.
Whether it can once again apply in future self-sufficient cities remains to be seen. At the very least, it's a compelling argument that warrants investigation.
Vertical Urban Factory
234 Bay Street
Toronto, M5K 1B2
September 13 - December 9