Architecture at Work


• March 2020

Architecture at Work. Towns and Landscapes of Industrial Heritage

Author: G.L.Fontana, A.Gritti

Publisher: Forma edizioni

Translation languages: ita > en

Translators: Sarah Elizabeth Cree, Janice Loggans e Graham Robertson per Il Nuovo Traduttore Letterario

We are delighted to have contributed to the English version of this project, which was both complex and original, a survey of “company towns”, housing settlements for workers in large production complexes, across centuries, continents and manufacturing activities.

It describes well-known and less-known case studies of industrial architecture, but also examines the social, sociological, and historical aspects, as well as the social, philanthropic and gradual commitment of industry and labour. Mill towns, mining towns, cité ouvrières, bruk städer, colonias industriales, villaggi operai, città sociali, corporate cities are just some of the names that have been given to these places over time, testifying to their irreducible historical, social and architectural complexity.

Project Capital: Architecture, Technique and Industrial Society

by Andrea Gritti

In 1934, Simone Weil began working in a factory, convinced that she would not be able to contribute to philosophical reflection on the “human condition” until she had fully experienced the “workers’ condition”. The collection of writings that describe those harsh months, published by Albert Camus, concludes with an emotional appeal, stating that “all problems of technique and economy should be formulated towards conceiving the best possible conditions for the worker” Weil’s definition of this fundamental societal norm also included architecture, which she held to be one of the “intermediaries” capable of wresting the workers’ thoughts away from the earth at their worksites, just as it lifts those of the faithful towards heaven in churches. Weil wrote her article on the “first condition for non-servile work” in Marseilles in 1941, two years before her death and six years before construction began on Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation in the same city.
During the period in which Le Corbusier was conceiving and realising the work that was to introduce in a new, at once both radiant and mechanistic, social habitat, architecture had already broadly put itself to the test as mediator, accumulating, over the course of a century and a half, a formidable series of projects commissioned by a dizzying range of representatives of industrial capitalism.

(traduzione di Sarah Elizabeth Cree)