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Author: Natalia Bonilla Porras
Location: Politecnico di Torino – Lingotto, Aula Magna. Via Nizza 230, Turin
Dates of the exhibition: 18th February – 15th March, 2018
Images by FULL

The Exhibition Vertical Urban Factory, an installation leaded and curated by architectural researcher, historian, critic, educator and consultant Nina Rappaport, have had place at Lingotto Fiat factory space in early 2018 in cooperation with the Future Urban Legacy Lab. The exhibition is a product of an extensive research that the Vertical Urban Factory think tank has been working on since 2008. As part of it, a book with the same name and written by Nina Rappaport, founder of the think tank, has also been published by Actar in 2016. Rappaport has merged academic research and consultancy work to develop a study that addresses the potential of old vertical buildings, mainly served as factories, in the new sustainable urban paradigm and production tendencies. For the opening ceremony on 12th of February, she presented a lecture explaining their vision of the past, present and future of vertical industrial architecture. The installation has been displayed before in New York, USA (Skyscraper Museum in 2011); Detroit, USA (Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit in 2012); Toronto, Canada (Design Exchange in 2012 and Urban Space in 2013); London, UK (Museum of Architecture in 2014); Lausanne, Switzerland (Archizoom EPFL in 2015); Brooklyn, USA (The Gallery at Industry City in 2015 and Industry City’s Innovation Lab in 2017); among other venues and universities across the world.

If factories once dominated the way in which cities were shaped, they are now associated with pollution and unsustainable practices, making them undesirable for today’s urban approaches. Factories were once the economic boosters of cities in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and urban development pivoted around them. An example of this is the Lingotto Fiat factory building (1923) -venue of the exhibition- in Turin, Italy, designed by engineer Giacomo Mattè-Trucco. It was once considered of great innovation with its vertical bottom-to-top production process ending in a rooftop track for testing the automobiles once they were completed. Back then, it impressively marked both a production and a planning concept. Other examples are the Highland Park, Ford Factory in Detroit, USA (1909), Toni Molkerei in Zurich, Switzerland (1974), Hong Kong’s factories post World War II (1950-1987), among other. Nonetheless, contemporary production and consumption trends, where “the sustainable” has raised to be priority, may be changing the way in which former industrial cities are reshaping, deliberately forgetting about the original concept of factories.

Minding this reality, the exhibition examines the role of former factories -or their buildings, more accurately- in current and sustainable solutions for tomorrow’s self-sufficient cities. Today, newer factories are targeting to taller buildings with high-quality design and cutting-edge technologies to counter the environmental issues that last-century factories used to lead. One example is the VW Glaeserne Manufaktur (VM Transparent Factory), in Dresden, Germany, designed in 2002 by Gunter Henn. The factory incorporates the city’s tram network into its distribution system, and the glass-looking facades provides a glance of the production process from the outside, making it a great example of integration between industry and urban context. In addition, leaving aside the fact that global factories might still be making cheap products under questionable working conditions, it is undeniable the new forms of production that have been emerging in local economies. Smaller, local, cleaner and smarter production has taken an important place in consumers’ preferences, and therefore in the economy. Thus, by learning from contemporary innovations, the exhibition challenges to re-approach factories as potential mechanisms of enhancing production, consumption, and recycling, and of integrating sustainable industries with neighbourhoods without encountering health problems.

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Future Urban Legacy Lab