Factory in Berlin, Germany

Factory-cities without Factories

What happens to factory-cities without factories?

What happens to factory-cities when factories cease to exist? How is their identity defined without their economic identifier?

Photo by Leon Seibert on Unsplash

When we talk about the side effects of heavy industrialization, one of the most recurring themes is the environment.

We righteously tend to focus on the most tangible and disastrous impact emissions have on the planet, and the benefits that plants’ reconversion or total closure would have on health, nature and quality of life.

But what happens to factory-cities when factories cease to exist? How is their identity defined without their economic identifier?

In our upcoming documentary “Dreaming Taranto” produced by MAPP media, we spoke with Giulietta Fassino, Cultural Projects Manager at Urban Lab Torino to draw a comparison among Chemnitz, Turin and Taranto — three cities that have experienced the decline of industrialization in substantially different ways.

From mapping unoccupied housing districts to helping communities meet emerging needs for culture and social activities, Chemnitz and Turin have implemented a model that aims at breathing new life back into their urban texture that goes beyond just “working.”

FIAT building in Mirafiori, Turin

But if on the one hand the two “northern” cities have somehow managed to take a step forward by experimenting alternative solutions that bring together the private and public sectors, the beautiful Mediterranean city of Taranto, once capital of Magna Grecia, is stuck between present and future without a clear coordination between citizens’ and public administration’s needs.

With a fully operational steel factory that has been repeatedly deemed unsafe and non-compliant with European industry standards, it is very difficult to imagine a different Taranto.

Dreams of green areas replacing towering chimneys are just that – dreams. Yet, as a factory-city, Taranto needs to have an immediate alternative to survive in the coming years without its long-standing “identifier.”

What saved Turin from depopulation and economic downfall after the automotive industry crisis, in Fassino’s words, is the “know-how” inherited from the manufacturing experience; a “can-do” attitude that needs to be channeled toward a different type of “craft” that is more human-oriented than machine-oriented.

Can culture be the answer? Stay tuned.