“A ‘Vertical’ Future for the Urban Factory
NATE BERG JUNE 21, 2012
If the question is “belching smokestack?” the answer is almost undoubtedly “not in my back yard.” The factory is maybe the least enticing of all neighbors, and yet it has been so important to the development of nations and cities. So while the industrial revolution brought countless factories and their plentiful jobs into cities, those same cities eventually got tired of their negative, sooty externalities. Zoning quartered them off into their own little corner of the city, and a long list of other conditions – from racial tensions to union squabbling to the migration of workers to looser regulations – eventually pushed many of these factories beyond the borders of cities and out into the exurbs or overseas.
A new exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit tells the story of the urban factories left behind, and how this city may once again become home to a vibrant collection of manufacturing centers.
“Vertical Urban Factory,” which runs through July 29, sees this urban future of manufacturing largely in its urban past. Through a detailed and architecturally-focused history, the exhibit tracks the urban roots of the factory, highlighting its role in developing the economies and cultures of places.
“The factory contributes to the city both in terms of sources of labor, places for people to work, but also as a kind of vital space where things are being made and things are happening,” says curator Nina Rappaport.
This show was originally shown in New York City in early 2011. For Rappaport, taking it to Detroit was an obvious step. In September, it will move on to the Toronto Design Exchange. As it did in Detroit, the Toronto version will add a new section featuring factories from that city, such as old breweries and distilleries and the sugar refinery that’s still operating there. The now-decaying 1922 Packard automotive plant in Detroit, the 1926 Fiat factory in Turin, Italy, and the 2006 Volkswagen factory in Dresden, Germany, all make appearances. By showing examples of both old and currently operating urban factories, Rappaport tries to remind us that manufacturing still has a place in modern cities.
“One of the things that’s so frustrating is that many urban mayors think that nothing’s being made in cities anymore,” says Rappaport. “There’s thousands of factories in New York. And hundreds in Chicago and Detroit. They’re still there.”
Via: The Atlantic Cities & massurban:
Photo: Corine Vermeulen, courtesy of MOCAD