Reindustrializing Europe

“For a European Industrial Renaissance” it’s the title of the European Commission Communication in January 2014 which promotes the reintroduction of production of goods and services in Europe and wants to implement a solid industry base through specific policies and actions. The discussion about the relation between economy and territory suggests two main issues for our discipline. From one side studying this phenomenon is a difficult task because it hasn’t generated many changes in our cities yet. From the other side it interrupts the research campaigns on dismantling and deindustrialization which characterized many scholars for years. The document doesn’t really talk about territories. The communication and the policies are mostly about common market, actions for economical growth, about SME and clusters, regional polishes, real economy and crisis. It doesn’t state much about territories, cities and crisis effects. The long-lasting deindustrialization process started in the 70s and emphasized after 2008 has generated very different effects in the European countries and just now we can observe in EU programs and in real phenomena as well the social need and political will of a productive release. A really various phenomenology of actions and answer is highlighted by territories. A storm of creative enterprises and coworking spaces in Milan, a territories rewrited from bottom up like in Prato, a systematic approach in Brussels, a failed big postfordist program in Turin. The territories show an intricate effort of redesigning the spaces for production. Not only reuse and recycle: reindustrialization is not the answer to dismantling cities. We observe microspaces where working and living are mixed (Morandi, Di Vita 2015), extremely various coworking spaces (Pacchi 2015), but also the completely redefinition of big areas such as the Prato Macrolotto (Dei Ottati 2014) or the Sassuolo transfers (Mattioli 2015). This production systems metamorphosis is not really supported by actions from the top and the industrial implementation occurs mostly without a well structured shape in some “classical” productive territories: nonetheless the European Commission suggests to “think mostly about small”,-referring to SME and clusters, but also about cities (Armondi, Bolocan 2015). Internal areas such as the Alpine Macroregion seem more in the back. Here the fragility of urban systems together with the development insecurity don’t really generate comparable reindustrialization opportunities. These “slow territories” (Lanzani 2005) with a very high level life quality are marginal and policentric and their release also depends on ecological and cultural consequences as well as on attraction power. The geography described by our cases is not uniform and unambiguous. Very different approaches which sometimes are very far from European and local policies emerge and design spaces. Only with a deep analysis it’s frequently possible to recognise territories transformations: illegality, transnational dimension and virtual construction make them bigger and more hidden at the same time. The masterclass hypothesis is that we could talk about European reindustrialization trying to understand transformations and waste of territories and standard production models. What’s left of industrial districts? Of urban industries? Of regional production systems? What is the role played by territories and by these small phenomena if the European context is characterized by big industries and large capitals, off and reshoring, an insecure market, technological innovation and neo colonialism? While our cities are made of microscopic enterprises, and our territories are consumed by our cannibalistic past, some innovative new manufacture systems emerge. Thus, are all these events really able to generate a shared and democratic development and wellness? Is the European reindustrialization program just an utopia?

Presented at:
Reindustrializing Europe, Venice, Italy, May 11-12, 2016
Productive | Territories is an urbanism research network between IUAV, EPFL, PoliMI and PoliTO scholars which studies the territorial implications of the utopian Industrial Renaissance in Europe.

 Record created 2017-03-01, last modified 2019-03-17

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