Cities of Making - RSA

Cities of Making


  • Manufacturing and materials

Cities of making assesses the role and current state of manufacturing in three of Europe’s urban centres. Compiled by a consortium of partners in London, Brussels and Rotterdam it forms part of Cities of Making, a thirty-month programme exploring the future of urban based manufacturing in European cities.

From bicycles to beer, exhibition design to specialist printers, European cities are home to a host of manufacturing activities. Often hidden from view and less numerous than once found, these business activities nonetheless form an integral part of the economic and social fabric of these urban areas. As well as providing employment they support other sectors of the economy, from servicing the creative industries through garment sampling or printing, to keeping residents fed on the go. Their success, however, is challenged, by a number of issues including a lack of available space in increasingly busy cities and from a lack of support from policy makers.

The importance of this sector in post-industrial cities is often contested. Some view the sector as being in terminal decline, its loss from cities part of inevitable development. To others, the activities are a critical part of urban life, and they see a bright future for the sector as interest in locally produced goods and ‘making’ rises.

Alongside these debates larger trends are set to influence cities: technological shifts, such as the rise of automation and AI, are anticipated to impact jobs across sectors from manufacturing to finance; and the need to rapidly become more sustainable will see cities shift the way they use and manage resources. Within these changing contexts manufacturing has the potential to play a new role in our urban areas. 

This report brings together insights about the current state of manufacturing in three European cities – Brussels, London and Rotterdam, each with a distinct industrial heritage. It aims to take a fresh and pragmatic look at the sector and in doing so highlight the challenges and opportunities faced in each of the cities, as well identifying potential for shared learning across the three.It identifies three key areas affecting the sector which warrant further investigation: governance and network models for supporting the sector; opportunities for harnessing resources and technology to develop more sustainable production; and spatial typologies for supporting modern urban manufacturing.

Download Cities of Making: London (PDF, 1.9MB)

Download the report - Cities of Making (PDF, 9.7MB)

Download a hi-res version of Cities of Making(PDF, 33MB)


Picture of Josie Warden
Former Head of Regenerative Design

Picture of Benedict Dellot
Benedict Dellot
Former Head of the RSA Future Work Centre and Associate Director