Radical innovations in data collection and analysis, artificial intelligence, and robotics suggest that we are heading right into, if not already in the midst of, a new industrial revolution. Technology conditions economy and politics, yet it also shapes our material worlds.  In the context of architecture and urbanism, the new revolution is made manifest not just in smart cities built ex novo or parametric designs, but is felt more strongly in work environments, at nondescript sites like factories, logistic centers, farms, or greenhouses—transforming how and where we live and work.

A recent document of the Dutch National Research Agenda asked: “how can we anticipate the impact of new technologies on humans and society, and understand and evaluate the influence of existing technologies?” Yet, in the end, it is the influence of technology on job losses that has received prominent attention, and not its broader spatial implications—while history tells us about what the consequences of previous industrial revolutions for the planet were. In my view, this undervalues the impact of economic decisions and the organization of industrial processes in the reorganization of spaces, society, and ecologies, ultimately leading to missing the opportunity of using urban design and planning to anticipate the future.

My recent work has looked at that research gap, and examined what I call workscapes, that is, the urbanized landscapes at the intersection of managerial and technological innovations in work processes. I have looked at historic and contemporary urbanisms of work in the context of radical shifts in the politics and technologies of production, through my Ph.D., and other research projects like ‘Automated Landscapes’ or ‘Cities of Making.’

My research shows that core variables in the production of architectural and urban space are the initiatives of industrial entrepreneurs. This shifts how we view the meaning of design and planning concepts in relation to technological and economic developments. In the end, architects and planners facilitate changes driven by economic agendas that eventually determine the lives of many, human and non-human, but that is not always recognized within disciplinary practice. This is a preoccupation at the core of my work.