The Other Factory

H. Koon Wee

Filmed within the opening of the 2017 Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism: Imminent Commons. Filmed by Daniel Ruiz and edited by Núria Moliner.

The Other Factory: Investigations in Late-Industrial Organization & Form

This research is a close investigation of the process of industrialization in Shanghai in the twentieth century. It reveals a particular history and potential of Shanghai, identifying the knock-on effects of industrialization in the context of a relentless form of urbanization that is synonymous to China in the last decade. This work would also begin to describe the cycles of industrialization and deindustrialization, in a global ecosystem of rustbelts and collapsed economies in relation to the rise of newly industrialized and urbanized nations. The by-product of the global manufacturing economy has led to the formation of unsuspecting and alienated consumers around the world whose lives are cross-subsidized by the poorer newly industrialized cities. In the city of Shanghai, the late-industrial and post-industrial built forms would in turn become an instantaneous building stock for the next invention of a city. The late-industrial forms and organization in Shanghai would suggest that the industrial typology is highly unstable and evolving, with a stronger need for hybridity. Hence there is a departure from Nicholas Pevsner’s factory typology, and the modern treatment of a highly segregated industrial land use in cities. There is an emergence of a highly reflexive non-type that follows the conditions of rapid urbanization and structural changes in the socioeconomic realms. It is also important to extend Reyner Banham’s critique of the aesthetics of the machine taking the place of the scientific and economic rationale, in order to argue for a new form of aesthetics emerging in late-industrial Shanghai.

The new industrial organizational complex remains a legacy of Lewis Mumford’s account of the mechanical clock and how urban time organizes the formation of industries and cities. These historically inseparable concepts of “cultural preparation” would have unexpected expressions in the cases of Shanghai. This is an inescapable organizational complex that governed cities in a particular period in history, but the liberal capitalization and urbanization processes in China are seeking to readjust the same industrial-consumerist space & time. One would also have to update Herbert Marcuse’s critique of a totalitarian form of scientific rationale in advanced post-industrial societies. This “non-terroristic economic-technical coordination” that manipulates organization, industry and productivity in the creation of an American bureaucracy would not have to the same results in Socialist China. The study of three sites of industrial organization and form corresponds with three dominant periods of industrialization in Shanghai, namely the Sino-Soviet Alliance period, the Cultural Revolution period, and the Open Door and Economic Reform period. Key historical planning and socioeconomic policies and strategies would be included in the exhibition, including many diagrams, policies, maps photographs and other archival materials. There would also be mapping documentation of organizational networks formed by global and regional actors such as the governmental research institutions, state agencies, private manufacturers, and other agencies.