Prof. Dr. Tom Avermaete | History and Theory of Urban Design

Building the Commons. An Alternative Architectural History of the European City

Alternative principles of pooling common resources are attracting increased attention in political circles and society at large. Labelled as “commons”, some of these issues have, in the last decades, received growing academic attention in critical urban studies, urban geography, and the social sciences. Indeed, the examination of the highly contested collective resources known as “urban commons” renders the city a “factory for the production of the common” par excellence (Hardt and Negri 2009, 250). In most studies, however, the commons is predominantly approached as a matter of social processes, with little consideration of their spatial or urban implications. This project reframes the research on the commons from an architectural and urban perspective, asking how common practices have affected the architecture of the city, and conversely how the built environment has structured common practices and facilitated access to common resources. The research will formulate an alternative history of the architecture of the twentieth-century European city through the prism of the commons. Conducted from the perspective of architectural and urban history, the study will offer a systematic analytical account of how the architecture of the city provides a framework for commoning, how common resources manifest themselves, and how, as urban figures, they impact the fabric of cities.

© Jon Broome

Involved People
Prof. Dr. Tom Avermaete
Dr. Irina Davidovici [irina.davidovici@gta.arch.ethz.ch]

Project timeframe
2020, ongoing