Reimagining the Form, Function and Place of the Factory

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Reimagining the Form, Function and Place of the Factory

Simon Nilsson


This thesis reimagines the form, function and place of the factory. The factory of today typically is a flat, expandable and cheap ‘shed’, almost always placed in a monofunctional industrial zone. Manufacturing is dispersed and obscure, overlooked by a paradigm of mixed-use densification.

The reasons for this separation seems dubious in today’s rapidly changing industrial landscape. New fabrication flows, disruptive technologies and a changing workforce looks supportive of revisiting the original factory condition: urban and compact, in close proximity to workers and resources.

Factory architecture has often been a blunt reflection of technological and societal conditions. How could a contemporary urban factory likewise reflect ongoing shifts. Another thesis question: there is a tradition of ‘spectacle’ in factory architecture, where industrial workings are manifested extrovertly. In this vein, what aspects of new vertical production processes could be utilised for visual effect?

On a corner in the developing Gullbergsvass area of Gothenburg, a high-rise (22x22x49m) factory is conceived. Tailored towards the high-tech sector on a ’hotel model’ and ready to accommodate ‘Industry 4.0’, the facility utilises an automated storage and retrieval system for handling the vertical flow problem.

Promoting exposure of automated equipment, constant activity is provided to the factory’s surroundings. Employing this proposal as critical device, the potential of industrial presence to contribute to a cityscape is explored and further debate hopefully provoked.


Who influences you graphically?
Maybe my fondness for intensely detailed drawings has to do with childhood memories of Martin Handford’s work. For the urban context of this project, David Rumsey’s axonometric drawings of Manhattan comes to mind, as does so much work from talented people on platforms such as this. Like many others, I’ve also always found the evocative linework of Atelier Bow-Wow inspirational. However I didn’t want to use perspective for this project, but instead go for a more technical while yet slightly naïve look, perhaps relating to drawings such as that classic CCTV cutaway by OMA. I wanted the drawings to be distinctly flat, while exploring light and materiality through renders.

You explore your proposal through all means of representation, do you trust that only in this manner is it totally possible to explore and convey a proposal?

I think that renders can be important because of their inclusive nature – they are easily read by anyone. Models are very similar in this respect but are often quite abstract. And while not a crucial aspect of this project, materiality can only really be explored through large-scale models and careful visualisation. But I think very much can be said through a more restrained repertoire of representation, however it probably won’t be as accessible. If I speculatively had to chose a single medium for a project such as this, it would have to be a large-scale model.

How could the format of the proposal as a contemporary factory manual have helped in communicating and exploring the proposal further? 

Well, I considered formatting key themes into bullet points supported by a range of applied scenarios, which could have directed the discussion more towards a general discussion on future factories. This would certainly have been interesting. In the end though, I chose to make a single, more focused proposal for a specific building, combining factory typologies such as the automated lights-out shed and workshop tower in one facility.

How relevant is the night view of the factory?

This particular snapshot elaborates on how automated processes might provide a constant sense of activity to a sidewalk or streetscape. I imagine this elderly couple taking an early morning walk and seeing these ‘dancing’ robots on the cusp of the first floor slab. Drawn closer, they are mezmerised by contemporary state-of-the-art manufacturing, made publicly visible through the Corner Factory.

You use terms as factory, hotel and industry, how pertinent are terms like these in a society where everything seems to blur in-between professions and spaces?
As the decentralization of manufacturing increases, this facility is meant to represent a node in a network rather than a self-sufficient production unit. As in an office hotel, manufacturers can rent space and locally provided production capital. Outside industry can meet excess demand by sending in their print orders for to the Corner Factory, where the in-house print shop serves all comers. At the top floor, the public workshop or maker space enables consumers to themselves become manufacturers, turning ideas into objects. It is a building meant to encourage this blurring through shared functions and industrial symbiosis.



Simon graduated in Architecture & Urban Design from Chalmers University of Technology in 2016. He has also studied at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne and worked at Fredblad Arkitekter. He is currently based in Stockholm, working at Tham & Videgård Arkitekter.


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