Factory Futures – Towards a Digital Real Estate



Tommaso Franzolini (Architectural Association)

Iain Macdonald (NTU)

Operating via a series of focused case studies, field work and desk research, Factory Futures – Digital Real Estate (DRE) aims at generating an understanding of the planning policies, technologies and economics that can potentially enable this vision where urban environments, leading edge consumerism, manufacturing and infrastructure co-exist in close proximity.


Urbanism should not be considered as town planning or a city programme rather perhaps a layered examination and extrapolation of various scenographies and technologies which by extension require a wider range of competences to impact positively upon deliverables internally and externally. Moreover it does encapsulate all of the dynamic strategies and processes shaping the built environment commonly referred to as real estate. This is evident in the constantly morphing neo-geo convergence of energy production, technologies, automated and human activity brought about by “Big Data” in urban landscapes.

‘Big data’ is not just about how we assemble, analyse and use information for consumptive and productive use, it is also about how we create the infrastructure to mine, store and transfer bits of data also how we design, prototype, manufacture and distribute products and services independent of territorial and time constraints and how human interface exists within this scenario. What is clear is that this infrastructure is no longer discreetly located within the stealth architecture of stand-alone facilities, it is ubiquitous: embedded within an airport, office, factory or warehouse data centre and physically connected to the sub stations, grids and power complexes which power it. Very soon every new build or regeneration project for a university, commercial quarter, residential neighbourhood, business park etc. will reflect the convergence of consumer/producer, data and energy and this will be the embodiment of what can be termed Digital Real Estate (DRE).

To widen our understanding of DRE, requires laboratory and real world enquiry, bringing together contemporary urban theories and computational design techniques, developing a conceptual and technical toolset for the affirmative re-empowerment of architectural practice. This is axiomatic to be able to operate within contemporary conditions of production recognizing the fusion of technology products and culture in the 21st century is having a profound impact on urban design, real estate, industry and consumer needs. To understand DRE means to explore the rise of ubiquitous computing, the globalization of brands and  24/7 convergence of work, consumption and leisure which mean the determining factor for real estate success is no longer just location but more often distributed (IP) flexible building structures, power generation, data storage, brand recognition, changing work and living demographics and practices.