A Car Factory That Does Without The Sprawl

You remember the living roof at Ford’s Rouge Center Dearborn Truck Plant in Michigan. It’s a beauty and a remarkable achievement, covering the space of eight football fields – but its very expansiveness emphasizes a predictable aspect of automobile factories: their sprawling nature, their sheer acreage, their disconnection from the hum of outside life.

This doesn’t make car factories bad, but it does make the “Cars-tomized” design offered up by two Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology students, submitted to Super-Architects and picked up recently on eVolo, intriguing to consider.

car-tomized factory melbourne

images from Pei Ern Ho and Angelika Irawan via Super // Architects

Gone here is the traditional long, horizontal assembly line. In its place are parking-facility-like ramps that windup and down (separately) several stories, hitting “production boxes” along way where assembly, painting and detailing take place. “The production line begins from above, making its way down to the basement for the final stage of production wherein the test chamber lies,” designers Pei Ern Ho and Angelika Irawan write.

This reimaging of the factory allows for the most exciting aspect of the design: its location, on the edge of Melbourne’s central business district, opposite the Southern Cross Station but tied to the station as well by a bridge over the station, which does double duty receiving car frames and allowing pedestrian passage to the factory.

melbourne car factory2

“Making a bold urban move by utilizing Southern Cross Station as the first step of the production process, we celebrate manufacturing and revive the industry by bringing it into the city,” the designers say.

Indeed, a major differentiating factor of the Car Customization Factory is its openness and connectedness with the outside world. At its very top is a design hub, where consumers order up their custom design, which they can see taking shape thanks to open, circulation spaces between the production boxes.

So no living roof – but more of a living factory, perhaps.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.