Workshop 2 – IBEA International Workshop 6th Dec 2013 (programme)

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Urban Regeneration, New Modes of Specialisation and Urban Production

Friday, December 6, 2013 from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM (PST)

Confirmed Speakers:
Prof. Mark Casson, University of Reading
Prof. Ram Mudambi, Temple University, USA
Prof. David Bailey, Aston University
Dr. Daniel Hulme, Satalia
Dr. Bastian Lange, Dir
ector Multiplicities-Berlin
Dr. Mark Brown, Amey
Mr. Shane Clarke, Team London Bridge
Mr. Tomas Diez Ladera, Director, Fablab Barcelona

Dr. Mahtab Farshchi, IBEA, London South Bank University
9:00-9:30 Registration
9:30-11:00 Dr. Mahtab Farshchi –
Shane Clarke
11:00-11:30 Break
Dr. Bastian Lange
Tomas Diez Ladera
Dr. Mark Brown
12:30-13:30 Lunch
13:30-15:00 Prof. Mark Casson
Prof. Ram Mudambi
Dr. Daniel Hulme
 15:00-15:30  Break
15:30-17:15 Roundtable
17:15-18:00 Drinks

Eventbrite - Urban Regeneration, New Modes of Specialisation and Urban Production

The Rationale:

Understanding technological change is a key factor in the success of cities in a globally connected world. As old technologies lose out to the new ones city spaces and functions will face a need for transformation and adaptation to new modes of production. The new city spaces and functions have to embrace the new production philosophies emerged from the conquering paradigms. Mass production of the early 20th century for example demanded large scales of production, which were soon pushed to the cities’ peripheries or locations outside. Noise, pollution as well as other physical externalities provided a good case for such spatial configurations. Productive cities of this era created their own architectural legacies and city forms were a manifestation of such productive means. Travelling in time, citizens would have to make use of cities’ existing spaces and architectures while creating the new ones. The transformation and adjustment of cities to the needs of the new paradigm therefore faces many challenges where planners, developers, design teams, clients, users and many more ought to interact. Changes to the fabric of a city calls upon an orchestrated and harmonised effort which is very far from the realities that cities face nowadays. For example, in a city such as London there are numerous levels of decision making without sufficient levels of communication to suggest a coherent and strategic approach to urbanism or town planning. The struggle for creating the appropriate types of space and functions in the twenty first century requires that the wide range of needs of citizens are taken into account and the understanding of the new modes of production is relatively accurate on the one hand and appreciation of the new emerging modes of production on the other. In this one day workshop we aim to unwrap these fundamental questions relating to the changing role of cities, specialisation and modes of production within the city and debate some of the key issues in decision making regarding the design of future cities. In particular we wish to understand how new modes of production inspired by mass customisation rather than mass production may affect the design and configuration of spatial structures.

Research Questions:

– Can rundown inner city spaces provide viable productive (manufacturing) structures where local and traditional skills are revived and flourished?
– Can new modes of production find their place in the heart of modern cities today?

Workshop Participants:

The workshop will offer a range of speakers including economists, urban planners and technologists to offer the theoretical as well as practical issues relating to the current interplay between production and urban design in cities.

Cities, Transformation and New Modes of Production

The world has now entered an accelerated mode of change and cities as the bearers of the physical relationships are transforming rapidly. While historical traces of the past are still lingering in our cities, the physical structures need modification and change in order to respond to the emergent socio-economic as well as psychological-physical needs. The transformation of cites, however, relates to how well planners as well as businesses appreciate and foresee the change in technologies and modes of production on the one hand, and how well they are prepared to respond to these changes on the other. Despite the businesses’ apparent unwillingness to devote a considerable amount of time to develop distinctive points of view about the future this is vitally important for the rapid changes that our society is facing today. As Hamel and Prahalad (1994) discovered: “new competitive realities have ruptured industry boundaries, overthrown much of standard management practices and rendered conventional models of strategy and growth obsolete”. Given that the future technologies will have a radical impact on the structure of medium to small-sized enterprises (Tony, 1989), this view of the future requires that planners, policy makers and managers evaluate different modes of production, i.e., to choose between the bureaucratic biases of Taylorism and the product Standardisation approach of Fordism, and to evaluate whether the future of computerised production is transcending Fordism (Bryn, 1997). For example, localised manufacturing and more specifically, Retail Manufacturing, is the concept of retail outlets using advanced additive fabrication processes to print production demand (Hsu, 2013) . Localised manufacturing allows greater end-user participation in the design process, and gives consumers more control over product features and aesthetics with a high level of customisation to meet unique user needs (Englert, 2008).

The Craft-Tech cities of the future: Whither specialisation?

In predicting the knowledge economy of the future, Herbert Simon articulated his views in 1960 by suggesting that “computers and humans have fundamentally different cognitive comparative advantages” (Langlois, 2003). In “How will machines change our lives and work?” Langlois further provided an analysis of Adam Smith and Charles Babbage’s division of labour: “In Smith’s account, production is a matter of discrete tasks or stages, each with its own set of specialized tools. Under the sort of crafts production that precedes the division of labor, the artisan masters and coordinates multiple stages of production and wields a variety of specialized tools. As growth in the extent of the market makes it economical to subdivide labor, the artisans begin to specialize in a smaller subset of operations and tools. To do this artisans must now cooperate with other artisans in a more carefully orchestrated way. Workers become complements to one another rather than substitutes (Leijonhufvud, 1986). And the coordination function that the artisans themselves once supplied must now be handwired to a greater degree into the spatial and temporal ‘interfaces’ among specialized operations and specialized operatives. Each operative must make his or her output relatively standardized so that the next operative down the line knows what to expect; and each operative must hand over that output at a predictable time, lest buffer inventories run dry and the entire production process come to a crashing halt (Langlois, 2003). For Charles Babbage, writing a few decades after Smith, the division of labour is applied to mental operations in general as much as to mechanical ones; he further suggested that a machine might take over from humans not only mechanical tasks but some of the intellectual tasks as well (i.e., computers)(ibid., 2003). The three fundamental benefits of division of labour according to Smith were i) the increase in dexterity, ii) the saving of time that is commonly lost in passing from one species of work to another, and iii) the invention of a great number of machines (Smith, 1975,I.i.5 cited in Langlois, 2003).

While discussion on the depth or breath of specialisation continues, the advent of technology and the possibilities of mass customisation are providing further food for thought for planners and managers alike. If the scale of production is not what makes the economies of scale the existence of small and medium sized firms becomes a viability. Should there be a growing role for SMEs then inner cities may also be places of lively production and The division of labour and industrial production in pursuit of mass production has had its mark on the way modern societies have developed. As a result of such trends in the UK and especially in big cities such as London, it is evident that many traditional skills have vanished or are in a very low supply. Deskilling of labour under the Fordist mode of production has been widely criticised. In Smith’s own words “the man whose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations, of which the effects are perhaps always the same, or very nearly the same, has no occasion to exert his understanding or to exercise his invention in finding out expedients for removing difficulties which never occur. He naturally loses, therefore, the habit of such exertion, and generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a humane creature to become” (Smith, 1976, V.i.178 cited in Langlois, 2003). In contrast the traditional craft based production lacks the dexterity of the Fordist mode as the craftsperson must demonstrate a range of skills to create almost a complete product though in a small scale. The possibilities of customisation and small scale production suggest that the emphasis on “internal” economies of scale should be replaced by the “external” ones. We argue that new technologies are enabling the use of small scale production and many of the traditional crafts based products can find themselves as viable and competitive solutions once again.

Today “smart materials”, unorthodox assembly techniques, and the right tools have created many new opportunities for production of accessories, housewares, toys and many more (Pakhchyan, 2008). For example, blending sewing and assembly techniques with traditional electronics to assemble simple circuits using conductive thread solder joints for snaps and switches for buttons can bring arts, crafts and technology together by creating objects which are interactive, quirky and fashion-conscious (ibid.). Syuzi Pakhchyan shows how to use smart materials such as thermo and photochromatic ink that change colour by touch or sunlight, magnetic and conductive paints, polymorph plastic, fibre optics and more. The combination of new technologies and handmade craft is also increasingly popular and many artists/craftspeople are creating cutting-edge craft using computer-aided design (CAD) and 3D printing. Many traditional artist/craftspeople are now considering incorporating high-tech solutions to their traditional craft businesses. Clare and Sephi Itzhaki of Artworks Clothing, a thriving hand-made fibre business in Harrisburg, US have recently found a high-tech solution to their business: “Everything starts in 2D and moves to 3D, while the equipment takes care of the cuts, he [Sephi] still does all the creative and design work. Without the technology, he doubts he would have ventured in this new direction in his work” (Ricci, 2013). Another craftsperson who uses technology to improve their craft is Amy Hanks. In her Chicago-based company this artist – enjoying from her traditional formal craft training as well as a career in ceramics – is now printing her designs into tiles (ibid.). A merger of technology and maths can be found in the sculptural work of Bathsheba Grossman of Santa Cruz California. Her work has benefitted from the improvements in software (i.e., CAD) and direct-metal 3D printing technologies. With the help of new technologies artists/craftspeople can make their art/craft more accessible to the general public. 3D printing is known to be a game changer in the arts and crafts world (Forker, 2013). 3D printing machines build up layers of extruded material – mostly plastics but also ceramics, metals, and even a wood filament – one thin layer at a time using CAD software (ibid.). Crafts in their traditional sense build upon tacit knowledge based on personal know-how. Since tacit knowledge is not visible or expressible by language is it usually important to have shared activities for their transmission. Socialisation and close transmission of knowledge in the traditional models of master-apprenticeship may therefore be needed (Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design, 2013). Selling arts and crafts can also benefit from new technologies through creating and retaining meaningful relationships between customer and creator (ibid.). The ‘Wearable Technology’ is another concept that is becoming a popular trend. It is claimed that “A woman can now wear a ball gown that doesn’t just glow but changes its intensity as she moves”( Eisenberg, 2012). The concept of comparative advantage (the principle of optimal allocation of resources) discovered by David Riccardo insists that allocation of tasks should be based not on who is absolutely better at the task but on who is relatively better.

Points of Discussion:

Our question therefore would be “Do mature cities such as London have any comparative advantage in accommodating small scale Craft-Tech based production? Specialisation and division of labour enabled by the digital and mobile technologies have implications on the use of the physical space as well as the degree and format of specialisation and division of labour.

The aim of this workshop will be to explore the notions of customisation, and small scale production and manufacturing in cities as a viable future possibility. This will be seen in view of the intense global competition that cities face and where many mature cities have turned themselves into mainly service provides with marginal attention to production and manufacturing. Academic speakers will debate the extent by which specialisation is important to the economy and will focus on the way that advances in technology may affect the way production is organised by seeking new economies of scale and scope in small scale, customised production. Discussions are encouraged on the new emerging modes of specialisation and theoretical perspectives that explains them. Industry speakers will give examples of how cities are providing the physical places while the technology removes some of the traditional place based criteria.

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