Making in the city Industria by Haworth Tompkins © Fred Howarth
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Making in the city

The theme for the architecture room at the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition is Spaces for Making – spotlighting spaces of production and manufacture.

Curated by Assemble, the room features work by Ron Arad Studio, Holcim and the Norman Foster Foundation, Nigel Coates, Open City’s Accelerate programme, Stanton Williams and many more. You can also find a piece from The Sunderland Collection within the main exhibition.

Making and cities have had an uneasy relationship – despite providing countless livelihoods, industry in the past posed an occupational health risk to workers and a public health hazard to whole swathes of the urban landscape.

Suburbanisation and deindustrialisation may have pushed the dark Satanic mills out to the city fringes and beyond, freeing up brownfield land for urban living, but it has also reduced employment space and pushed small enterprises out of urban centres.

Since 2000, Greater London lost nearly 1,500 hectares (the equivalent of over 2,000 football pitches) of industrial land to other, predominantly residential, uses.

Making space

With advances in manufacturing, light industry has become less polluting and hazardous than ever, and the rise of online retail and last-mile distribution centres makes it possible for these uses to exist within our communities.

However, in cities like London, there is a shortage of industrial space across the sectors – from small workshops to medium-sized facilities and even larger logistics centres.

At Caro Communications, we have been fortunate enough to work with some of the leading stakeholders bringing manufacturing production back into the city – content editor Peter Smisek explores two new spaces in north and east London.

10_photo-by-Claudia-Agati Bloqs by 5th Studio © Claudia Agati

In Enfield

Bloqs, is an almost 3,000 sqm open-access factory in north London, created by 5th Studio, which offers studios and industrial units in a renovated 1960s warehouse.

Caro helped to launch the space, to great acclaim – Bloqs was selected by Oliver Wainwright as one of the highlights of 2022.

Bloqs also features shared, state-of-the-art facilities and spaces for advanced digital fabrication alongside common space that inspires a sense of community and fosters collaborations between occupants.

As the area around is transformed into a mixed-use residential district, Bloqs serves as an anchor for creative makers, by keeping artisanal and digitally aided production in the the Lea Valley – an area that once served as one of the capital’s industrial heartlands.

HaworthTompkins_Industria_TypRes-36_Photography_Fred_Howarth Industria by Haworth Tompkins © Fred Howarth

And in Barking…

While Bloqs provides space for small-scale makers, the recently opened Industria, designed by Haworth Tompkins for Barking and Dagenham’s regeneration arm Be First, is targeted at those working on a larger scale.

As the UK’s first multi-storey light industrial building, Industria houses 45 small and medium enterprises across four levels, in spaces ranging from 20 to 450 sqm.

The building’s three vehicular service decks are connected by a 30m diameter helical ramp, providing much-needed access. Industria achieves three times more usable space than a standard, single-storey development.

Industria is flexible; its internal spaces can be subdivided and combined. It includes a 2,000 sqm solar array on its roof, which produces enough energy to power 100 homes. It is robust, designed to last more than 100 years: three times longer than the average industrial facility. It also provides communal spaces and shared meeting rooms for workers.

The eye-catching chequered façade, designed by DNCO was, inspired by industrial signage and the building’s ramp and provides a playful contrast to the adjacent, unadorned warehouses.

Both projects represent innovative models of providing spaces for making in a city where land is scarce. Whether creating communities by sharing facilities among makers or building upwards to create much-needed spaces, they prove it is now possible to make it in the city.

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition opens on Tuesday 18 June