s The Skyscraper Museum: Vertical Urban Factory
The Skyscraper Museum
The Skyscraper Museum

The Skyscraper Museum is devoted to the study of high-rise building, past, present, and future. The Museum explores tall buildings as objects of design, products of technology, sites of construction, investments in real estate, and places of work and residence. This site will look better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device.


JANUARY 12 through JULY 17, 2011

Take a virtual tour of the exhibit here!
This exhibition was featured in The Architect's Newspaper, Metropolis Magazine and The New York Times!

Factory Conversation Series - click here.

Vertical Urban Factory features the innovative architectural design, structural engineering, and processing methods of significant factory buildings from the turn of the 20th century to the present. Now, over a century after the first large factories began to dominate our cities, the exhibition poses the question: Can factories present sustainable solutions for future self-sufficient cities?

From evolution to revolution
The shift away from early water-powered mills and workshops toward 20th-century Machine-Age dynamos and mass production assembly lines influenced the design and organization of the factory, as did new construction technologies. Urban populations swelled to meet the labor demands of factories. In turn, the metropolitan marketplace drew in new businesses. In the competition for expensive city land, factories expanded skyward, either to house vertically integrated production or to share space in a building with other manufacturers.

Modern symbols
Early 20th-century engineers and architects developed factory processes and design ideas based on principles of time-motion studies and used the verticality of multi-storied buildings to aid processing. Emulating the utilitarian structures of industry, avant-garde architects including Le Corbusier and Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius embraced the materials of glass, steel, and concrete, undecorated walls, and open spatial volumes to express a new formal vocabulary and applied the "factory aesthetic" to other Modern building types.

From grime to green
By the 1960s industry had begun to move away from city centers, first to urban edges and suburbs, then to other shores to compete in a globalized marketplace. As a result, de-industrialized cities must find new strategies to maintain manufacturing sectors and jobs. Vertical Urban Factory asks how --given advanced computer technologies, material innovations, and the demand for cleaner and "greener" industries-- architects, engineers, and urban designers can integrate industry with everyday life, creating self-sufficient and sustainable cities.

LEFT TO RIGHT: Garment workers at factory on 27th Street and 39th Avenue, Astoria Queens, 1933. LaGuardia and Wagner Archives; Fiat Lingotto Factory, Rooftop Testing Track, Giacomo Matte-Trucco, Turin, Italy, 1916-23. Courtesy of Centro e Archivio Storico Fiat; Die Glaserne Manufaktur, Henn Architekten, Dresden, Germany, 1999-2001. Courtesy of Volkswagen.


DOWNLOAD Exhibition Press Release

* * *


Vertical Urban Factory is guest-curated by Nina Rappaport, architectural historian and critic and Publications Director, Yale School of Architecture, with designers mgmt. design, Studio Tractor Architects, and filmmaker Eric Breitbart. The exhibition features photographs, architectural drawings, process diagrams, maps, new architectural models, and films of Modern and contemporary factories from around the world, as well as a section on New York. A graphic timeline of industry, technology, and architecture provides historical context.

This exhibition is a sponsored project of the New York Foundation for the Arts and has been made possible with thanks to contributions from: Autodesk, Duggal Visual Solutions, Elise Jaffe + Jeffrey Brown, French Embassy-Cultural Services, Netherlands Architecture Fund, Swiss Consulate General in New York, Spanish Consulate General in New York, Chilewich, Turner Construction, and Velux.

Vertical Urban Factory is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and by the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency.