Last week in London, Plymouth School of Architecture, Design & Environment hosted a symposium which considered the question of re-industrialisation in the context of urban regeneration in Europe. A number of speakers from diverse backgrounds presented their perspective on how re-industrialisation could be achieved and/or the challenges that this might pose. Krzysztof presented his own thesis on urban regeneration and the value placed on different types of productivity and discussed how over the past 5-6 years there has been an emerging dialogue amongst students of the M.Arch program which engaged with industry and culture. He presented some of our urban strategies discussing how we had considered different ways in which regeneration of an industrial site could happen without having to revert to the neo-liberal model of speculative housing development.
Following this, Tomasz Zemla (Head of Spatial Planning at Warsaw City Council) presented the challenges in Warsaw of these ‘left-over’ industrial spaces and how, as an authority, these challenging places are negotiated. Dr. Michelle Adams (Dalhousie University) discussed Industrial Symbiosis as a methodology for an inclusive and productive means of regeneration which has the potential for social change and inclusivity. Adrian Murphy (International Synergies) presented the work that he does from a business planning consultant perspective which places focus on finding actors and potential synergies in order to put in place a more circular economy. The last speaker of the morning session was Karl Baker (LSE) who considered urban regeneration at a much more local scale – where small scale production units integrated within a residential community could potentially alter the paradigm of conspicuous consumption to one of conspicuous production.
After lunch, there were two more speakers – Neil Bennett (Terry Farrell and Partners) spoke about how London developed around the Thames and its tributaries which led to a characterisation of industrial ‘backlands’ along particular rivers. These spaces are now the primary focus for development which for Farrells tends to evolve around infrastructure and connection. The last speaker was Michael Edwards (UCL) who considered what might need to happen in order for the change that we were discussing to occur. Capitalism had put in place a value system whereby the market dictated planning, politics and culture.
The symposium finished with a lengthy (although it didn’t feel long enough!) discussion which considered in a more rounded way how this sort of change might happen. Did it need to be top down policy change or bottom-up initiatives? Or both? Are we in enough of a crisis to force change? We discussed what kinds of industry we were talking about (eg. where might steel production fit in or amazon warehouses – alongside craft breweries and artisan furniture makers). Why was re-industrialisation important (social, economic, ecological?) and did the planning system need to change – in particular was the current land/building use classification system (A1-A5, B1, B2, B8 etc) antiquated? Was this impeding a greater diversity of inner city and ‘post-industrial’ re-industrial regeneration?
All in all, we believe the dialogue has only begun. Many questions were asked with some tentative answers and suggestions. In the studio, we are continuing to explore these issues in the context of Ursus. In June, the discussion will be continued at the conference which will further develop these questions and hopefully bring more thinkers, practitioners, students, academics etc into the fold.