Architectural Myopia: Designing for Industry, Not People

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In the last half-century, the clear result of “architectural myopia” is buildings whose makers have been so concerned with the drama of their appearance that they fail on the most fundamental human criteria. They isolate people; they do not provide enough light; or provide a poor quality of light; they provide a hostile pedestrian environment at their edges; they cause excessive shade; or create winds in what is known as a “canyon effect”; or they trap pollutants in the “sick building syndrome”; they use resources wastefully; etc. Moreover, the buildings themselves are a wasteful use of resources, because they are not likely to be well-loved, cared for, repaired, modified, and re-used over many years. In short, it is not just that people find them ugly, but they represent a fundamentally unsustainable way of building human environments.

[Link to Architectural Myopia: Designing for Industry, Not People]

China’s Manufacturing Cities

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Just when we thought that the nature of our urban spaces has been altered by the changing forms of economy and technology, the manufacturing-based cities make a comeback. In the previous half-century, we moved from a manufacturing-based economy to services-based economy thus altering the form of our cities from being centralized to being disperse. No longer was a single industry the major employer and the working class didn’t necessarily have to live near their place of employment as commuting to work became easier. This held true even in developing economies until of course, China took over the mantle of being the world’s manufacturer. Of course, manufacturing never died as someone has to manufacture the countless goods that we desire; it simply moved to places where it was more affordable to do so.

china manufacturing cities

[source]. Edward Burtynsky recently released his pithily-named book, China that contains several photographs like the one above that depict the vast manufacturing industry in China. The mass employment pattern of such industries have spawned townships that are akin to manufacturing towns that dotted the Rust Belt in the United States in the earlier part of last century. Almost all workers are employed by a single industry and work and live together in high rise apartments. Characterized by long working hours, most workers either have no need for activities apart from work or aren’t given opportunity to indulge in any such activity. The other day I was talking with my significant other regarding the proclivity of having acquaintances and friends outside of our working environment and if lack of such options would have any detrimental effect on our lives. It looks like these workers simply don’t have the luxury of such options. The images of the workers housing as shown below are indicative of their work-centric lives:

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