New Industrial Urbanism: Designing Places for Production
Excerpts from a new book by Eran Ben-Joseph and Tali Hatuka
Since the Industrial Revolution, cities and industry have grown together; towns and metropolitan regions have evolved around factories and expanding industries. “New Industrial Urbanism” explores the evolving and future relationships between cities and places of production, focusing on the spatial implications and physical design of integrating contemporary manufacturing into the city. The book examines recent developments that have led to dramatic shifts in the manufacturing sector — from large-scale mass production methods to small-scale distributed systems; from polluting and consumptive production methods to a cleaner and more sustainable process; from broad demand for unskilled labor to a growing need for a more educated and specialized workforce — to show how cities see new investment and increased employment opportunities. New Industrial Urbanism provides lessons from cases around the world and suggests adopting New Industrial Urbanism as an action framework that reconnects what has been separated: people, places, and production. Moving the conversation beyond the reflexively-negative characterizations of industry, more than two centuries after the start of the Industrial Revolution, this book calls to re-consider the ways in which industry creates places, sustains jobs, and supports environmental sustainability in our cities.
Chapter 7 Industry and Place
Clustering, reinventing, and hybridity are three contemporary approaches to developing industrial areas. Industrial clustering is a concept defined as a socio-spatial assemblage of people, buildings, and activities without any necessary center, boundary, or scale, where the production processes of some service-sector firms depend on infrastructure in a fixed, physical location. Industrial regeneration is a concept that refers to processes that boost existing industrial uses and reverse possible decline by improving the physical infrastructure, protecting and enhancing current land use, and building on the urban characteristics of the place. Hybridity is a relatively new concept that offers a spatial framework of mixed-use industrial zoning to preserve industrial districts in cities. Using the principle of densification, this framework proposes to construct hybrid buildings and districts based on the principles of walkability, alternative transportation, and neighborhood retail.
Although from the perspective of economic development these approaches differ from one another, they are all based on two related premises. The first is that industry has been and still is a central mechanism for economic growth for contemporary cities and regions; and the second that economic growth relies on different institutions collaborating and on various stakeholders forming a network. The three approaches to industrial development are based on an updated Although from the perspective of economic development these approaches differ from one another, they are all based on two related premises. The first is that industry has been and still is a central mechanism for economic growth for contemporary cities and regions; and the second that economic growth relies on different institutions collaborating and on various stakeholders forming a network. The three approaches to industrial development are based on an updated conception of the role of industry in cities, but also on the need to develop new frameworks of stakeholder participation. Thus, the foundational principles of 20th-century urban planning such as top-down policy, hierarchical decision-making, and limited stakeholder involvement cede their place to principles of integration, top-down and bottom-up initiatives, the creation of new coalitions, and encouragement of stakeholder involvement. These new economic policy premises also manifest in the physical strategies. Generally, all the three approaches lean on two planning principles: compactness and connectivity. Compactness substitutes the distance and separation in zoning practices with new proximities among uses. This principle accompanies the need for collaboration and gives it physical expression. Connectivity is about defining new uses, paths, and mobility modes as a means of supporting the new proximities. Connectivity is often manifested in design as a means of updating a place’s image as a whole.
Still, these approaches differ in their scale and initial concept. In terms of scale, clustering is an elastic approach of an undefined scale. It can be used for a region or a district; clustering can take place in rural, urban, or suburban environments. Furthermore, clustering growth is unlimited and its physicality is not always juxtaposed to its actual size or physical place.
Distant sub clusters that produce products similar to those of the main cluster can still be part of a single cluster. Regeneration focuses on the urban fabric and is often implemented at district scale. The point of departure for intervening when regenerating an area is the existing uses and people actually in the place.
Lastly, hybridity is an urban approach that starts from the object, the single building, or a complex of buildings, to the level of the district. Its growth is cumulative: from the single to the many without necessarily following an overall strategic plan for the industrial area in the city as a whole. The various scales associated with these different approaches also express the key idea of each approach. Clustering fosters the specialization of existing or new industries; regeneration encourages sustainability, building on the past to construct a new future; and hybridity advocates flexibility, offering a new adaptable lifestyle model for the future. Nevertheless, these approaches and cases teach us three important lessons. First, industrial development is about bridging the gap between industrial needs and zoning, which requires conceptualizing the city in a way that situates it within its broader regional social and economic context. Second, industrial development is about creating a manufacturing continuum, by identifying and developing sites that are appropriate for manufacturers at various stages (e.g. the maker stage, the start-up stage, the scale-up stage, the small and medium-sized enterprise stage, and heavy industry) based on regional strategic objectives (e.g. the growth of a particular sector) that could encourage the return of clean industry to the city (Reynolds, 2017). Third, industrial development in the 21st century is an ongoing search for strategies and concepts responding to the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its dynamic. All of the cases presented are characterized by a dynamic approach to policy and planning, an approach that implies a constant reassessing of strategies implemented, as well as initiating new, responsive, contextual strategies.
Finally, these cases show that societies are beginning to consider how industry can create place, sustain jobs, and promote environmental sustainability, all within the urban fabric. They suggest that manufacturing is not just the means but also the theme by which the future urbanism can and should be explored and developed.
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Eran Ben-Joseph is the Class of 1922 Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning and the former head of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Tali Hatuka, an architect and urban planner, is a Professor of Urban Planning and the head of the Laboratory of Contemporary Urban Design, at Tel Aviv University (lcud.tau.ac.il).