Architecture and Revolution.
Typical Plan as Index of Generic.
Published in The City as a Project,. Pier Vittorio Aureli (ed.). Berlin: Ruby Press, 2014: 216-260.
The early stages of Fordism in Detroit, ranging between 1905 and 1941, knew an unprecedented level of labor struggle, devoid of any ideology and only “asking for more”: more wages, better working conditions and freedom of assembly. The radical and totally disenchanted bargaining strategy of the workers’ “rude pagan race” produced the finest capitalist technical response: the absolute industrial architecture of Albert Kahn. His factories literally demonstrated how the opposition of the working class effectively generated the space of production and in which way all the peaks of strife, the “blood and fire” of the American labor history, have been translated into new rational configurations of the workshop layout and in more sophisticated strategies of social integration.
In order to understand the evolving logic of such a dialectics between struggle and development, architecture and revolution, there is nothing more revealing than retracing the evolution of the factory plan. For its intrinsic tendency to approximate the source of living labor, which was reduced by mass production to an abstract generic form - a labor “sans phrase” uniform in quality and only different in quantity - the industrial fixed capital progressively simplified towards its barest form of possibility: a “typical plan”, or a coherent, flexible and reproducible plan scheme, made of an homogeneous envelope, a technical core and a minimum of supports, able to make productive the human tacit potential by means of its calculated indeterminacy, suitable either to force the employees in rational choreographies or simply to let them free of “performing themselves”.
Following the path traced by Mario Tronti in his postscript to Workers and Capital, in which the straight political strategy of the American pre-union workers is elected as a model for the European working class movements in the 60s, a genealogy of the Albert Kahn’s industrial buildings would conceptually redefine the “typical plan” not as a mere default condition of the modern metropolis but rather as the true measure of its deepest principle of growth: the generic ability to produce proper of the human species-being.