Economic Geography

Economic Geography Studio 2023

Ottavia Cima

The future of urban manufacturing: Conspicuous production and the sensory city

The tragic events of the last years are laying bare the fragility of global supply chains, thereby directing increasing attention towards localised manufacturing. Industrial activities, however, can have a considerable impact on the urban population, the environment as well as the sensory landscapes of cities. If industrial production is to stay in, or come back to, cities, what kind of activities are people willing to tolerate – or even embrace? Can forms of “conspicuous production” (Baker 2017) act against the alienation of consumers from production and thereby urge them to take responsibility for the impact of their livelihoods?

The Studio explores urban manufacturing and its sensory dimensions in the town of Mendrisio, Ticino. Students will develop a research plan to be implemented during three days of fieldwork in Mendrisio, experimenting with methods that will allow them to grasp and represent the sensory dimension of manufacturing in the town. The results of the students’ work will be exhibited in Mendrisio at the end of the semester.

Sensory fieldwork in Mendrisio

Eleven students, accompanied by Ottavia Cima (Unit Economic Geography) and Ewa Wasilewksa (mLab), participated in an excursion to Mendrisio (Ticino) over Easter break, as part of this year’s Economic Geography Studio. The group explored the town through sensory methods (blind walks, body mapping, poetry), met local actors and collaborated with Virginia Tech’s Steger Center in Riva San Vitale. The students advanced their own research project in pairs, focusing on the multisensory dimension of manufacturing activities in the town. The results of their projects will be presented in an exhibition at the local library La Filanda in September 2023.


Contact: Ottavia Cima (