Sem 03 | Culture and Builtform 2 - 02
The Factory Type

Over the semester 3-2020 monsoon session, the History course focused on understanding the social history of type through the consideration of built examples primarily in the European region. The sessions were structured around dismantling patterns of life as seen through the study of different building types, and their historical evolution. For example, we looked at how the spatial setting of modern-day cinema halls have their typological roots in the Greek and Roman theatres, or the urban bungalows are conceived from a living form that tickled down through the villas and estates. Similarly, we looked at how the enterprise of scientific knowledge produced new institutions like libraries, museums, universities and academies, while at the same time structuring new behaviour patterns that reflect in how space is segregated and planned.

In order to exercise their learnings, students were asked to look at the historical evolution of the factory type. Each student within the class inquired into the forms of production from the past, and studied the resultant space that housed these activities. They analysed the institutional forms of production on the one hand, and analysed how built forms complemented these on the other through a process of diagramming. By tracing onto the architectural drawings, they were asked to diagram aspects of scale, structure, circulation, fenestration, mass and volume relationships and such other parameters within their respective chosen examples. Further, these were chronologically laid out in order to ascertain the shifts in the conception and manifestation of the factory space.

The compilation of forty spaces of production considered from across the world, studied individually by each student helped in understanding the distinct societal, political and technological forces that work themselves into the factory type. As a type, the architectural setting of the factory – that of large empty volumes with a bare structural character has been harnessed for different dimensions of production. Examples like the Pompidou Centre in Paris demonstrate how the character of a factory was skilfully appropriated/adapted to conceptually recognize as well as validate the intellectual labour of cultural production, positioned in the centre of the city. On the other hand, as we move into the post-industrial age where digital processes have made many industrial shells obsolete, factory spaces are up for regeneration and often subsumed into cultural programmes. This gets best demonstrated in the sensitive adaptive reuse of the SESC Pompeia designed by Lina Bo Bardi in Sao Paolo Brazil.

Towards the millennium, the study indicated that large production facilities that were once abjectly planned in opposition to their settings began to turn their attention to bringing back concern for their respective surroundings. The concern of least disturbing environment cycles through massive production facilities remains central to the architectural question of the factory today. The study on the Factory Type not only brought these observations and questions to the fore, but were also closely engaged with in the subsequent design studio that focused on reimagining spaces of production through a more human and phenomenological dimension.