To consider the productive city is to reconsider the dual meaning of productive in society today. On the one hand, productive conjures up imagery of local manufacturing and a return to traditional skills. On the other hand, to be productive in basic economic term refers to the production of market value, and at the scale of the economy, measured by GDP per labour hour worked. In today’s global market economy, capital has increased its productivity by reducing the cost of labour and moving manufacturing outside the city to access cheaper labour overseas. The dual meanings of productive thus underlines a fundamental contradiction with the productive city in a European context. In the pursuit of productivity, production has become increasingly immaterial.
For Western economies, the shift to Post Fordist modes of production had led to the concentration of domestic migration around major urban centres, which provide the intensity of social connectivity vital for jobs in the Post Fordist economy. This has left small towns and cities like Narvik to face an increasingly uncertain future. Unable to rely on the physically productive industries that once sustained them, they also cannot compete in the Post Fordist economy without a critical mass of inhabitants and activity. A prospect that grows increasingly unlikely as the young continue to move away in the pursuit of better job opportunities.
The young face a paradoxical situation, in the pursuit of jobs they have moved to the big city only to find increasingly unaffordable living conditions. For Narvik, this presents an opportunity to reconsider its productive future in the Post Fordist economy. By utilizing one of the most valuable assets available to the city – access to a stable living environment, this project proposes a new model for innovation in Narvik, by establishing a framework for residency in the Technical Quarter.
The project proposes to radically expand the concept of residency beyond a narrowly defined creative or academic designation, and to recognize the cultural and social value of all forms of work. The residency offers the opportunity to bring individuals with diverse skills and backgrounds to Narvik to pursue meaningful work, while establishing a baseline for innovation in the region through seminars, workshops and exhibitions. To simply reconsider the production of housing as a means of valourizing immaterial labour is a powerful instrument for Narvik to engage on a global stage.