Atelier Bow-Wow, Richard Sennett, Margaret Crawford and George Baird keynote speakers during Constructing the Commons

News - 02 March 2016 - Communication BK

Investigating “the commons” at the intersection of philosophy, sociology and architecture, keynote speakers Atelier Bow-Wow, Richard Sennett, Margaret Crawford and George Baird, discuss the city, public space and social practices during the Constructing the Commons conference on 3 and 4 March.

Bringing together perspectives from different fields, the conference will enrich our understanding of the commons, investigating them by operating at the intersection of philosophy, sociology and architecture. The city, public space and social practices will be at the center of its discussion.


About the Commons

The term ‘commons’ today is widely and extensively discussed within different theoretical frames of reference. Historically it refers to natural resources that we, the people, have in common. Resources that are not one’s property and are available to all: air, water, earth. Today, the term is used in very different ways in economic, social, and political theory, as well as within the creative industries. The project ‘Constructing the Commons’, initiated by the chair of Methods and Analysis of the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment of the Delft University of Technology at the occasion of the visiting professorship of Momoyo Kaijima and Yoshiharu Tsukamoto of the Tokyo based architectural office Atelier Bow-Wow, investigates the commons from a tangible perspective, from an architectural point of view.

First, the commons are understood as a series of concrete architectural and urban figures, which can be found in the Western and non-Western city and represents an idea of commonality. Out of this perspective the term refers to notions of the public realm. However, whereas the public realm is often thought to address the public at large in exceptional locales and moments, the commons seem to engage with smaller communities, within ordinary places and times. As well in Western as in non-Western contexts these figures of commonality seem to be largely absent from the contemporary ways that the city is transformed and developed. In our time of rapid development and strong differences, there seems to be a need to rethink and redraw these architectural figures of commonality.

Second, the commons are looked upon from a procedural perspective, implying the rituals, pleasures and politics of co-operation that articulate an architectural project. Increasingly there is an idea that architectural projects are not single-authored ventures, but rather complex and layered processes that depend upon multiple agencies that establish a commonality. This commonality encompasses the shared effort of designers, advisers, constructors, and owners, but architectural projects are also the result of the commonalities of other stakeholders, like inhabitants, users and neighbours that negotiate forces into a new venture. In other words, architecture is a ‘common enterprise’, a public effort.

The ‘Constructing the Commons’ project thus reflects upon the contemporary practices of architecture and urban design by probing into the figure and project of the commons. As a final event of a series of different workshop, research seminars and educational projects, organized in cooperation with Atelier Bow-Wow, the conference ‘Constructing the Commons’ on March 3rd and 4th 2016 brings together different new perspectives. Renowned academics and designers will reflect upon the multiple challenges that the commons pose today to the fields of architecture and urbanism, but also to the domains of sociology, political sciences, and philosophy. The conference wants to enrich our understanding of the commons, as architectural figure and architectural project.

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