Kista Science City, just north of Stockholm, is Sweden’s version of Silicon Valley. Anchored by a few big companies and a university, it has become Northern Europe’s main high-tech hub, with mixed housing so people live and work in the same general area.
Around the world, a similar pattern is visible in many urban locations. Near MIT, Kendall Square, once home to manufacturing, has become a center for biotechnology and information technology while growing as a residential destination. Hamburg, Germany has redeveloped part of its famous harbor with new shopping, entertainment and housing. The Jurong Industrial Zone in Singapore now includes businesses, residential buildings, parks and universities. Even Brooklyn’s once-declining Navy Yard has become a mixed-use waterfront area.
Place after place, cities have developed key neighborhoods by locating 21st century businesses near residential homes and street businesses. Instead of heavy industry pushing people out of cities, advanced manufacturing and other smaller-scale forms of business pull people in and “reshape the relationship between cities, people, and industry”, as MIT professor Eran Ben-Joseph puts it. in a new book co-authored with Tali Hatuka.
The book, “New Industrial Urbanism: Designing Places for Production,” was published this week by Routledge, offering a broad overview of a major trend in city shape, by two experts in the field. Ben-Joseph is the class of 1922 professor of landscape architecture and urban planning at MIT; Hatuka is an urban planner, architect and professor of urban planning and director of the Contemporary Urban Design Laboratory at Tel Aviv University.
“The New Industrial Urbanism is a socio-spatial concept that calls for reassessing and reshaping the relationships between cities, people, and industry,” the authors write in the book. “It suggests shaping cities with a renewed understanding that an urban location and setting gives industry a competitive advantage,” stemming from access to skilled labor, universities, and the effects of clustering industrial companies.
As such, they add, “this concept calls for a [new] paradigm shift in the way we understand and approach production in cities and regions.
An opportunity to regenerate
In the book, Ben-Joseph and Hatuka contrast the “new industrial urbanism” with earlier phases of city development. From about 1770 to 1880, in their layout, cities saw the emergence of heavy industry and smoke-spewing factories with little regard for town planning.
Thus, from around 1880 to 1970, some urban planners and architects began to create idealized forms for industrial towns and sometimes developed fully planned industrial communities in peri-urban areas. Around 1970, however, a third phase set in: deindustrialization, as people began to leave the former industrial cities en masse, while industry went global and set up factories in some previously unseen countries. industrial. Between 1979 and 2010, as Ben-Joseph and Hatuka note, the United States lost 41% of its manufacturing jobs.
In response to all of this, the authors see New Industrial Urbanism as a fourth phase, in which city form and industry interact. The current moment, as they write, is characterized by “hybridity”. As some forms of today’s industries feature cleaner and more sustainable production, once undesirable industrial areas can now contain a more attractive mix of high-tech industry, commerce, residential units, educational institutions and research and recreation.
As punitive as the loss of manufacturing in the United States and elsewhere is, the emergence of high-tech production represents “an opportunity to regenerate urban areas and redefine the role of industry in the city,” write Ben- Joseph and Hatuka.
As the authors detail, municipal leaders take different approaches to the issue of revitalization. Some locations feature clusters, strengthening a particular industry. This is the case of Kendall Square with biotechnology, or even of Wageningen, the “Food Valley” of the Netherlands, where dozens of agri-food companies have settled in a compact region.
Other cities need to reinvent a deindustrialized place more deeply, such as in Brooklyn, Hamburg and Jurong, keeping certain historic structures intact. And some places, including Barcelona and Portland, Oregon, have taken a hybrid approach within their own city limits, encouraging new businesses at multiple scales and many forms of land use.
As “New Industrial Urbanism” points out, there is no royal road to the reconstruction of cities. In Munich, the headquarters of BMW rises in a four-cylinder tower from the 1970s, a reference to the company’s vehicles. Next to the tower is a huge BMW assembly plant, which spans several acres. Over time, residential growth has “gradually developed in the area”, as Ben-Joseph and Hatuka put it. Since the factory is only focused on assembly, not material production, it is more environmentally friendly to see residential growth nearby. The result is a viable industry juxtaposed with living areas.
“Our book tries to show the different ways in which cities can approach the changing contemporary relationship between city and industry,” says Ben-Joseph. “The cases we describe and the concepts we offer reflect the growing recognition of the role industry plays in overall global economic activity. They teach us that industrial development is always contextual and culturally dependent, and it is these variants that contribute to the evolution of different types and forms of industrial ecosystems.
wear it well
As Ben-Joseph and Hatuka also point out, the pursuit of industry to help rebuild cities doesn’t have to focus solely on high-tech companies. In the Garment District of Los Angeles, as the book also details, zoning changes threatened to disperse a successful century-old group of manufacturers.
These manufacturers soon coalesced into a productive business improvement district; policymakers have seen the wisdom of a hybrid approach to zoning that keeps manufacturers in place. (“Like farmland, industrial land is difficult to reclaim once replaced by other functions,” Ben-Joseph and Hatuka write.) As a result, about 4,000 garment manufacturers remain in Los Angeles, providing a crucial income to communities that have long depended on it. .
“As we often do with housing policies, it is critical that we design strategic land use mechanisms that protect and enhance existing industrial uses in our cities,” adds Ben-Joseph. “Cases like downtown Los Angeles show that cities are beginning to recognize the value of centrally located industrial land and the need to address pressures to convert these areas into high-end housing and displace existing manufacturers.”
As a book, “New Industrial Urbanism” has been in the works for nearly a decade. Along the way, the authors hosted a symposium on the subject at MIT in 2014 and helped organize an exhibition at MIT’s Wolk Gallery on the subject the same year. With support from MIT and Tel Aviv University, the book is also available as an open access publication.
Experts in the field have praised the “New Industrial Urbanism”. Karen Chapple, professor and director of the School of Cities at the University of Toronto, noted that while some people have “embraced the notion of localized advanced manufacturing in cities, the literature has lacked a compelling and detailed view of what a new industrial urbanism really encompasses. This comprehensive volume fills that gap, with powerful visual analysis deeply rooted in economic theory and historical context.
For his part, Ben-Joseph welcomes the trends towards a new industrial urbanism in many regions of the globe.
“We have seen a lot of progress in most countries,” says Ben-Joseph.
Yet, he observes, much more is possible, in the United States and beyond. As the authors write, “the reassessment of fabrication should be the primary goal of planners, urban planners and architects. Awareness of this goal is essential to the future development of cities around the world.