A Guide for 21st Century Cities of Making

The Cities of Making project releases its book ‘Foundries of the Future: A Guide for 21st Century Cities of Making‘. The book aims to show that despite perceptions, manufacturing is not in terminal decay in western cities. On the contrary, it is at the opening of a new chapter. Urban manufacturing and logistics is helping cities to be more innovative, circular, inclusive, and resilient.


Recently, with increasing interest in the circular economy, with cleaner and more compact technology, with more progressive building codes for mixed-use, with increasing awareness of the impacts of social inequality and with a clearer understanding of the value chains between the trade of material and immaterial goods, cities across the world are realizing that manufacturing has an important place in the 21st-century urban economy.

Since the 1970s, cities world-wide have been witness to radical de-industrialization. Manufacturing was considered incompatible with urban life and was actively pushed out. As economies have grown, public officials and developers have instinctively shifted their priorities to short-term, high-yielding land uses such as offices, retail space, and housing. Inner-city growth from New York to London and even Seoul have generally come at the expense of land uses such as manufacturing or logistics.

Developing more productive urban manufacturing

While both enthusiasms for making is increasing and the value of manufacturing is becoming increasingly evident in cities, the topic remains extremely complex and challenging to manage. This book attempts to shed light on the ways manufacturing can address urban challenges, it exposes constraints for the manufacturing sector and provides fifty patterns for working with urban manufacturing. This book has been written as a manual to help politicians, public authorities, planners, designers and community organizations to be able to plan, discuss, and collaborate by developing more productive urban manufacturing.

Weak land use

The authors first cover an abridged history of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, noting how European cities evolved rapidly by harnessing manufacturing, and then how the late twentieth century led to a radical shift in how cities work and think. We’re now at a crossroads between actors that do not see the need for manufacturing in cities and those that consider it vital for a prosperous urban future. Part of the tension comes from the fact that manufacturing is considered a ‘weak land use’ compared to activities such as real-estate development, which has been considered more financially attractive by many actors in the private and public sectors.

This real estate-oriented development narrative is increasingly regarded as short-sighted, but will not change without an alternative vision. We have therefore elaborated a narrative on how urban manufacturing responds to four specific challenges facing cities and how in turn manufacturing needs cities. In practice, planning and design for a topic like this is highly challenging.

Efficient city logistics

Logistics is a critical part of manufacturing. Manufacturers must ensure that their logistics systems optimize transport costs, shipping do not result in damaged goods, while delivery times are as efficient as possible (particularly) for local customers. Increasingly manufacturers are subcontracting logistics, which reduces the cost of equipment (like trucks), personnel, and storage space.
Furthermore, cities are increasingly taking interest in new urban logistics systems for low emissions zones, last-minute delivery, and smaller electric technology such as vans and bicycles. Logistics depends heavily on the business type, the goods being produced, and the business’ client base.

For city-oriented businesses providing foundational forms of manufacturing (such as bread), deliveries are likely to remain embedded within the business but will be subject to congestion issues and urban (zero) emissions standards. For businesses with a focus on the local market but with competition from e-commerce and economies of scale from larger foreign manufacturers (such as printing), the speed of production may be the strongest drawcard. These businesses will likely deliver (if bulky or delicate) or use a local courier service. Finally, businesses with sizable export production will likely depend on fast and affordable logistics.


By synthesizing the research and fieldwork conducted in a number of cities, we have encountered many similarities in terms of problems, challenges, and solutions for urban manufacturing. Inspired by the book, ‘A Pattern Language’ the authors have translated their findings into fifty patterns which help render the diversity of issues concerning manufacturing more tangible. As both teamwork and negotiation are necessary, exercises and methods are provided to use the patterns. Finally, they set out twelve key action areas as possible starting points for supporting urban manufacturing.

Source: Cities of Making

Download the PDF version here.

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