Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

Sensing Urban Manufacturing: From Conspicuous to Sensible Production

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Abstract:  Environmental destruction, social inequalities, geopolitical vulnerability—the limits of the long-time praised paradigm of post-industrial cities and globalised value chains are becoming evident, while calls for (re)localising production in cities are getting increasingly vocal. However, the material implications—i.e., where and in which form manufacturing should concretely take place in cities and the consequences on urban space and relations—are rarely addressed in debates on (re)industrialisation. In this article, we engage with the concept of conspicuous production by combining research on mixed-use zones with sensory methodologies. We focus on the multisensory dimension of urban manufacturing to interrogate the spatial possibilities for production in a small town in Switzerland. Together with a group of graduate students, we apply sensory methods to explore how production shapes urban sensescapes and how these sensescapes affect our relation to production. Our exploratory endeavour provides ideas of how sensory methods can be integrated into urban planning research and practice: we suggest that these methods, which necessarily emphasise subjective experience, can constitute powerful tools if they take into attentive consideration the local political and economic context, including the norms and power relations that shape individual perception. Our study sparks critical questions about conspicuous production and mixed-use zoning and tentatively advances the concept of sensible production: a production that not only is perceptible and can actively be engaged with, but that also shows good sense, makes sense, and focuses on what we need rather than on appearance.

Keywords:  affect; learning to be affected; mixed-use zones; (re)industrialisation; sensory geography; sensory methodologies; small towns; sustainable cities; urban manufacturing; zoning



© Ottavia Cima, Ewa Wasilewska. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.