Arguably the human-powered ‘factory of the world’, China’s Pearl River Delta region is gradually becoming one of the main areas for the transition towards manufacturing systems based on human and robot interaction. In addition to increasing the efficiency of the factory, how do these new conditions of production impact the Pearl River Delta region, the city, and ultimately the bodies that inhabit it?
Arguably the human-powered ‘factory of the world’, China’s Pearl River Delta region is gradually becoming one of the main arenas for the transition towards manufacturing systems based on human and robot interaction. From automated kitchens and tailor shops to robotic arms and agricultural drones, the spatial arrangements and protocols that are the result of the automation of labour challenge conventional spatial requirements and normative rules for health, safety and welfare. They bring new forms of territorial occupation and contestation, and lie beyond classic notions of authorship and signature. Yet, in addition to increasing the efficiency of the factory, how do these new conditions of production impact the Pearl River Delta region, the city, and ultimately the bodies that inhabit it?
This research is part of Automated Landscapes, and documents and reflects upon the emerging architectures and urbanisms of automated labour in the Pearl River Delta region, focusing on present-day case studies of automated manufacturing, logistics and supply chain infrastructures. The selected case studies shed light on potential new/future architectural typologies, such as new definitions of work and labour, and interactions between humans and machines.
The social, political and economic background to automation in Pearl River Delta inevitably constitutes part of the project: state controlled market mechanisms of capitalism, for instance Guang Dong province’s Robots Replacing Humans program, or the factories where full replacement of labour is not the aim, but the consequence; or the monopolies of communication and distribution infrastructure that make it reasonable to invest in automation.
The project will result in a performative presentation at the 7th Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism and Architecture in Shenzhen (15 December 2017-15 March 2018), comprising an installation, a public forum, and a school programme. The final outcomes of the research will be presented in Hong Kong in March 2018 and in Rotterdam.
The research on the Pearl River Delta region is conducted by Het Nieuwe Instituut in close collaboration with Future+ Aformal Academy, an independent school of urbanism and public art based in Shenzhen.
This project is supported by Design Trust Hong Kong (an initiative of the non-profit organisation Hong Kong Ambassadors of Design), and the Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Guangzhou.
Research Department, Het Nieuwe Instituut: Marina Otero Verzier, Director of Research; Marten Kuijpers, Senior Researcher; Klaas Kuitenbrouwer, Senior Researcher; Ameneh Solati, Researcher; Chris Zogopoulos, Assistant researcher.
In collaboration with Merve Bedir, Jason Hilgefort, Junwen Wang, Lucy Xia (Future+ Aformal Academy).
Assemblages of Humans and Machines in the Pearl River Delta
In this article published in The Site Magazine, Merve Bedir, Marten Kuijpers, and Marina Otero Verzier, address the contemporary emergence of distinct types of spatial configurations and conditions engendered and afforded by automation, focusing on present-day case studies in the Netherlands and in the Pearl River Delta region.