Barcelona conference starts on 16 May. Full programme is available. Free registration to sessions.
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Josep Ricart and José Peris - Barcelona Conference

Posted on 19-06-2024

Presentations by Josep Ricart (HARQUITECTES) and José Toral (Peris+Toral) at the session "Re-thinking dwelling, re-imagining housing" of the RE-DWELL Conference held at the School of Architecture La Salle, Barcelona, 16 May 2024.
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Barcelona conference exhibition

Posted on 15-06-2024

Within the framework of the Barcelona Conference, from 15 to 17 May 2024, an exhibition showcased the collective work of the RE-DWELL network. One set of diagrams emphasized societal challenges identified by researchers across the RE-DWELL research areas of “Design, Planning, Building”, “Community Participation”, and “Policy and Financing”. Another set of interconnected panels delved into the individual research contributions within the shared vocabulary and case study library of affordable and sustainable housing.   The exhibition included posters submitted by external participants at the conference.
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Keynote Michelle Norris - Barcelona Conference

Posted on 03-06-2024

"Resilience and fragility in social housing systems", keynote by Michelle Norris, Director of the Geary Institute for Public Policy and Professor of Social Policy, University College Dublin, at the RE-DWELL conference, School of Architecture La Salle, Barcelona, 17 May 2024.  

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Focus group at Vila Romão, in Lisbon

Published on 27-02-2024

On February 27, 2024, as part of the validation phase of the RE-DWELL transdisciplinary framework for affordable and sustainable housing, a team led by early-stage researchers Lucia Chaloin (in the context of her secondment at the Lisbon City Council) and Androniki Pappa, along with their ISCTE supervisor Alexandra Paio, organized a focus group at Vila Romão in Campolide, Lisbon. This housing complex is currently undergoing rehabilitation, with 25 housing units being renovated and five newly constructed, all offering affordable rents.   A total of 18 participants were involved, including residents, civil engineers, civil servants, the Lisbon City Council, Campolide community group members, architects, and academics. The Lisbon City Council facilitated the organization of the event. The purpose of the focus group was to address some of the pressing issues posed by the housing rehabilitation project, such as balancing intervention processes and daily living, fostering understanding among the municipality, residents, and technicians, and improving day-to-day interactions among all project stakeholders.   The discussion was facilitated by a game specifically designed for this event, based on a structured language developed in the RE-DWELL project. The experience underscored the importance of collaborative processes in defining solutions that resonate with citizens. These processes enable diverse stakeholders, each with their unique power structures, to converge in a moderated space where everyone's voices can be heard. These collaborative processes facilitate the gathering of various stakeholders in a moderated environment, enabling the articulation of concerns that might otherwise be diluted.
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USFD – Open Studio Event 2024

Published on 26-02-2024

On February 1, 2024, the Open Studio Event took place at the Sheffield School of Architecture, giving students from across the programmes the opportunity to display their work. A PhD section consisted of posters submitted by a number of doctoral students currently at the School of Architecture. Here, RE-DWELL ESRs Mahmoud Alsaeed and Aya Elghandour submitted their posters to disseminate RE-DWELL and their individual projects.   Mahmoud displayed two posters. The first poster detailed the structure of an investigation to identify the challenges in developing sustainable social housing, which had previously been exhibited at the Housing Studies Annual Conference in March 2023 and won “best research idea” at the Sheffield School of Architecture’s research poster competition in May 2023. The second poster presented the overall structure of his research project, focusing on perception of social housing and environmental sustainability, policy, and practice. This poster also showed the overall communication and dissemination activities that have been carried out.
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RE-DWELL at the "III Housing Innovation Conference", School of Architecture of Valencia

Published on 11-10-2023

On September 27, 2023, Leandro Madrazo took part in the "III Housing Innovation Conference" organized by the School of Architecture of Valencia with a talk titled "Research and Pedagogical Innovation: from Housing@21.eu to RE-DWELL." The presentation outlined a pedagogic research initiative that spanned two decades. This research journey, which encompassed projects such as Housing@21.eu, OIKODOMOS, OIKONET, and RE-DWELL, initially centered around the theme of housing and later expanded its focus to encompass the broader concept of dwelling. At the end of the session, there was a talk about how architecture practice and housing education are connected moderated by Carla Sentieri.    The session recording can be found at:  https://media.upv.es/#/portal/video/df675f30-68e4-11ee-9d35-674bea753d07  
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Affordable housing experience from the Netherlands

Posted on 05-06-2024

The two-month secondment to the Technische Universiteit in Delft (TU Delft) was an important step in my doctoral journey as I had a chance to interview leading professors and national experts in the field of affordable housing governance. Compared to my research findings on housing affordability in post-socialist countries struggling with the specific challenges of path dependency from the socialist period, the Netherlands is considered a good example of a rich tradition and a good practise example when it comes to organising affordable housing governance.   Historically, housing associations in the Netherlands originated in the 1850s as a response to the housing crisis of the time. They were originally founded as a philanthropic endeavour by wealthy citizens to provide affordable housing for their workers and prevent the diseases that were spreading at the time. Today, housing associations are private and not-for-profit real-estate companies that operate as third sector organisations and pursue a social agenda by providing affordable housing to those in need.   This long history and knowledge of organising affordable housing through housing associations has made the Netherlands a leading country in Europe when it comes to the proportion of affordable rental housing. What I have learnt is that this model cannot be “copied” to other countries, especially not to post-socialist countries where other solutions need to be sought.   I was impressed by the long tradition of the role of housing associations in the Dutch welfare system, but also by the intensity with which they campaign and fight for affordable housing. During my work at TU Delft, a demonstration against high housing prices took place in The Hague, with hundreds of people standing up and demanding more affordable housing. Although housing prices in Croatia are quite high, both for renting and buying, there have not yet been any protests and demands from citizens against the high prices.   The valuable experience and knowledge gained during the secondment will now be translated into a research paper. Together with prof. Haffner and p.rof van Bortel, we want to understand the position of Dutch housing associations in the new economic and regulatory environment, i.e. the abolition of the Landlord Levy, and find out how important they are for achieving the national goals of building and maintaining the social rental housing sector by 2030.  

Author: M.Horvat (ESR6)

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Instances of commoning in New York; or else a toilet, a fridge, and a shelf

Posted on 14-05-2024

A few days ago, I had the privilege of presenting my study titled "Commoning for social sustainability: exploring the role of institutionally aided practices in the neighborhoods of Lisbon" at the Conference of Urban Affairs in New York. This small section of my PhD research co-authored with my supervisor Dr. Alexandra Paio, delved into pressing questions surrounding commoning processes in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Can these processes thrive through progressive institutional instruments? What is their nature and dynamics, and how do they eventually bolster social sustainability?   The session I presented in was nothing short of invigorating, filled with insightful questions and thought-provoking discussions. I'm especially grateful for the inclusive environment fostered with sign language and sound interpreters, ensuring accessibility for all present attendees. Likewise, the conference exceeded my expectations in its organisation and contextual richness. In approximately 250 sessions, thousands of international researchers and practitioners offered a wealth of knowledge on various manifestations of pressing issues in urban space and housing discourses, such as commodification, gentrification and displacement, activism and social infrastructure, top-down visions and progressive policies, in diverse contexts of the US, Latin America, Asia, the Global South and Europe. It was inspiring to witness the diverse perspectives and groundbreaking research shared by peers globally, while the highlight of my experience was connecting with old and new friends, with whom I look forward to staying connected and following their work in the field.   After the conference I spent (my fortune for) some extra days conducting research and visiting sites to gain firsthand experience of the particularities of the neighbourhoods of New York. I was especially lucky that my last days there coincided with the annual Jane Jacobs Walks Festival, during which I was able to participate in several guided tours on multiple neighbourhoods and streets.   I could write a book about the mixed feelings triggered by the contradictions of New York: the impressive but tourist-filled High Line contrasting with homeless people sleeping underneath it or in adjacent metro stations; the photogenic skyline contrasting with the terrifying populations of rats searching for food in exposed piles of restaurant garbage on the sidewalks at night; the great views from amazingly redeveloped waterfronts, which have caused displacement and gentrification in once working class and immigrant neighbourhoods; the ‘alternative vibe’ of neighbourhoods outside the Manhattan, such as Brooklyn, Harlem and the Bronx, contrasting with stories of people  long suffering from rent rises and displacement; and so on…   Notwithstanding these and many more contradictions, I tried to approach the city through the writings of fundamental scholars for my architectural background, such as Jane Jacobs, Whilliam Whyte and Fred Kent. Thus, linking back to my research interests I will devote the rest of this post on my search of instances of commoning in the city and among them, on three small elements: a toilet, a fridge and a shelf.   A toilet… ..or more specifically the toilet of the Bluestockings Cooperative, which is a “collectively-run activist center, community space and feminist bookstore that offers mutual aid, harm reduction support, non-judgemental resource research and a warming/cooling place that is radically inclusive of all genders, cultures, expansive sexualities and identities”.[1] Based on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Bluestockings has been operating as a worker cooperative (meaning that it is owned and operated by its workers)  for over 21 years, focusing on mutualism, care and volunteering. Its very active and challenging operation aims at empowering marginalised groups, though community organisation, education and skills building, and providing free resources and a space where everyone is welcome.   Among all the cooperative’s significant contributions to the local communities, what makes its toilet noteworthy is a seemingly simple decision to make it open to all. As I witnessed during my short stay in the space, the toilet is a haven for homeless people and marginalised groups who can cover this fundamental need with dignity and respect. As I was told, this decision, although within the legal tenant’s rights of the cooperative, has sometimes caused conflicts with the landlord and parts of the surrounding middle-class neighbourhood. In a period where it is not uncommon to have to pay for accessing toilets in private stores and public stations, -a measure that aims to exclude the very same groups of users that Bluestockings welcomes-, I find it takes great courage to truly keep one’s door open while facing the implications and stereotypes of attracting marginalised people.   A fridge… .. that is placed outside the ‘Los Hermanitos Deli & Grocery’ in Brook Avenue in Bronx. The sign on the fridge invites passersby to take anything from inside it. As I was on my way to a guided tour, I didn’t have time stop and speak with the owners about it. However, although there is nothing novel about solidary offering of food to the ones in need in food pantries, food bags and soup kitchens, I found something particularly inviting in this case: its simplicity. The fridge is placed outside the store and is (according to the store’s opening information) accessible 24 hours a day, without anyone attending it or controlling it. This informality makes it particularly easy for people to stop by, open it and take what they need, without exposure, embarrassment, or stigmatisation. This simplicity can be especially emancipatory considering that poverty and food insecurity is increasingly becoming a next-door issue.   A shelf… … mounted on the fence of ‘La Plaza Cultural de Armando Perez Community Garden’[2], which was founded in 1976 by residents and green activists. The garden is located in Lower East Side, an area highly populated by long-standing and locally defended community gardens. The shelf, placed at the exterior side of the fence to make it accessible even when the garden is closed, operates as book-sharing platform. During my short stay in the garden, I was impressed by the number of people leaving and taking books: some seemingly came specifically to take or leave books; some borrowed a book to read during their stay in the garden and returned it before leaving, some took a book while passing by. Right before leaving, I was also astonished to watch a man returning from his grocery shopping (judging by the shopping bags he was carrying), leave a fresh shield meal on the shelf and walkaway.   I am sure that in a city of 780km2 there are plenty of such community-led initiatives, as there are in other cities around the world. In the three examples, it is worth noticing the spatial decisions that were intentionally or unintentionally made to accommodate these caring and sharing platforms and the implications they carry about their users: placing the fridge outside instead of inside the store allows for an anonymised and unstigmatized way to provide care, respecting the sense of pride of individuals in need; similarly, placing the shelf outside the garden, in a position that is highly visible to not only the garden users but also the passersby, allows for a greater number of users and a function of the shelf as a sharing platform independent of the schedule and operation of the garden; conversely, inviting people, and importantly marginalised groups, inside the cooperative’s space to safely use a toilet to treat their basic needs with dignity, creates a shelter of inclusion and protection. Closing, it is not in my intention to romanticise any of these initiatives, or present them as free from internal conflicts and controversies, nor promote them as a sufficient substitute for the lack of public service provision. In fact, these infrastructures may only treat symptoms rather than addressing the root problems of homelessness, food insecurity, addiction, illiteracy and poverty, which require institutional solutions. Yet, I cannot overlook how these humble and informal decisions embody moments of true solidarity, mutual support and sharing among communities to meet neighbours’ basic needs o with dignity and respect – and to this, I can only celebrate them.   ---------------- [1] https://www.bluestockings.com/about-us/about-us [2] https://www.opencity.com/laplazacultural/history/

Author: A.Pappa (ESR13)

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Exploring the Panorama of Barcelona's Urban Commons and the Dynamic State Relationships

Posted on 22-01-2024

During the first days of 2012 the residents around Encarnació 62-64 in the neighbourhood of Grácia in Barcelona, gathered outside the -up until then- nuns’ convent due to the sound of excavators tearing down the entire 1900’s building in just 3 days. Apart from the building, the site preserved an 800 square meter garden with pergola, century-old palm trees and fruit trees, house of several bird species, such as parrots, blackbirds, doves, robins or sparrows. Word spread that the site had been sold to a real estate company with plans to construct a six-storey parking lot. The residents of the streets Encarnació, Sant Lluis and the Associació Veïnal Vila de Gràcia, formerly strangers to each other, were mobilised in a restless effort to prevent the development plans and preserve the space as a neighbourhood facility. Their various protests were reflected in the Salvem el Jardí (Save the Garden) campaign in which they collected 7,000 signatures requesting that the plot passes to public property, urging the City Council to eventually buy it in 2014. Since then, the Associació Salvem el Jardí, have restored the remnants of the garden and thanks to their voluntary work, they have gradually transformed it into an open-air civic centre managed by the neighbours, a space they named Jardí del Silenci.   (Testimony from Marta Montcada, member of Associació Salvem el Jardí, Interview conducted in November 2023)   Today, the community garden is a hidden oasis in the neighbourhood, allowing visitors to enjoy the sounds, smells and tastes of nature. The garden is cared for by the volunteers-members of the association, and is open to the neighbourhood, hosting along with the tens of agricultural projects that contain multiple plant species, numerous social activities such as cultural and agricultural workshops, events, talks, exhibitions, shows, sport classes and playground equipment.   This is only one of the fascinating stories I learnt during my secondment in Barcelona, where I conducted on-the-ground research on the rich tapestry of community managed neighbourhood spaces. These are spaces of local character that operate as urban commons, meaning that they are run by the local communities, local organisations or any form of social institution established for their management, according to the local needs.   Over the course of three months, I was on my feet to get even a glimpse on the rich diversity that define these spaces in terms of program and typology, historical context, ignition, property status and management model. I conducted site visits engaging in informal discussions and formal interviews with numerous actors – members of the initiatives, with the urge to understand what these spaces are, how do they operate in the neighbourhood, what their relation to the City is, as well as what greatest challenges they face are. I visited community gardens and parks, neighbourhood cultural centres (Ateneus and Casals del Barri), working cooperatives, self-managed educational spaces, housing cooperatives and a self-sustainable agroecological community.   Below I summarise a few observations that derive from this experience, focusing on one of the dominant debates in the urban commons discourse, the relationship between the state and urban commons initiatives[1]. This relationship plays a key role in the character, resources and sustenance of the initiatives over time, especially when they operate on public property. Before exploring the array of relations, it is important to provide some overview of the emergence of these initiatives in Barcelona, as it is formative of the trajectories of these relationships.   Historical Context   The emergence of community-managed spaces in Barcelona is deeply rooted in the historic fabric of the city, encmpassing social movements and cooperativism. Examples of land collectivisations, initially by anarchist unions, were established before the Civil War. They evolved historically into workers’ collectives that self-organised to deliver services of healthcare, culture, education and production among others. During the 70s, the provision of these services and resources by communities themselves was a fundamental substitute to the state and market provision.   On the other hand, after the first democratic government in 1978, and particularly after the 2008 economic crisis, Barcelona has faced the challenges of a global city, such as the privatisation of public services, gentrification and massive tourism, evictions and an increase in precarious labour conditions, among others. Thus, the development of community managed services and spaces today is also a strong reaction to the current commodification of the city (Lain, 2015).   These two aspects of collectivism in Barcelona, both as a historic yield and a today’s countermovement, have shaped instances of different ideological values, priorities and self-reflected positions within the existing system of state and market.   Commons-state relationship   Conflict Numerous examples illustrate a wholly conflicting relationship between the initiative and the City, primarily due to ideological matters. Such examples have often led to forced evictions, as seen in several cases of squats such as the social centre Can Vies in the neighbourhood of Sants, the original building of the social centre Banc Expropriat[2] which later reopened in a new location and the housing squat that pre-existed on the site of the Ca La Trava community gardens[3], both in the neighbourhood of Gràcia within two blocks’ distance.   Tolerance / indifference In other cases, while the state is by any means supportive to the initiative, it demonstrates tolerance, at least until conflicting interests of development emerge and a conflicting relationship occurs such as in the examples discussed earlier. Similar to the previous cases, the “commoners”[4] are equiped with activist values, aware that they might need to defend their existence if such conflicting plans are in place. This is the case of the current initiative of Ca La Trava[5] and Jardi L’Alzina in Gràcia[6]. [7]   Collaboration While the above cases demonstrate opposing relationship that is also strongly related to anarchist and anti-systemic collectives, Barcelona showcases several degrees of cooperation between the City and community managed spaces. Provision of space, funding and technical support by the municipality are among the most common collaborations supported by existing policies, such as the Patrimonio Ciudadano. A fundamental requirement is that the initiative demonstrates a local impact. This support is based on the ground of recognising the significant contribution of community-run initiatives in delivering democratised social services that respond to the specific and dynamic needs of each neighbourhood. The provision of spaces ranges from entire building complexes such as industrial sites, often of heritage value, run as cultural centres by federations of entities, such as the Can Batlló[8], and the Ateneu L’Harmonia[9]; to single buildings, managed as local points of reference for the neighbourhood life such as La Lleialtat Santsenca[10]; or parts of buildings co-hosted with other municipal facilities, such as Calabria 66[11]; and finally to open spaces, such as the case of Jardins d'Emma[12].   Autonomy Beyond the mentioned cases, there is a great number of initiatives in which the property of space and other resources belongs to the managing entity, be it an association, collective or local organisation. These cases, such as working cooperatives have the capacity to operate independently of the state. Due to limited resources or legal constrains, the collective action of these initiatives often prioritises their members over the public impact, yet in most cases expanding to open activities.   Closing Reflections and Acknowledgements My time in Barcelona’s shared neighborhood spaces exceeded any expectations I had before arrival. Beyond their physical importance, these spaces constitute a vital part of community life, woven by collective aspirations and creativity. They are testaments to the power of collaboration, sharing and transformative change.   Reflecting on my research visit, I carry with me not just data but stories, experiences, and a deeper understanding of the intricate dynamics that shape these vibrant spaces. More than a personal experience, it has been a collective journey with the invaluable input of several people, who enriched my research and personal growth.   To this, I would first like to thank my secondment supervisor prof. Nuria Marti for her restless support at every step of the way, from working hand in hand with me, to accompanying me on visits. Furthermore, I am heartfully grateful to the extensive list of members of the initiatives I had the chance to visit, who generously shared their space, time and stories. Finally, my stay in Barcelona wouldn’t have been the same without my fellow ESRs -Annette, Saskia and Zoe- who, whether in person or from afar, shared their knowledge, experience, and many enjoyable moments!   --------- Notes [1] For more information see Huron, A. (2017). Theorising the urban commons: New thoughts, tensions and paths forward. Urban Studies, 54(4), 1062–1069. [2] Banc Expropriat is a shared space in the neighbourhood that operates outside markets and hierarchies. It is a social centre that hosts free activities open to all, such as language classes, sport sessions, craft workshops, film screenings, play areas, computer access, as well as a free shop of donated clothes, among others. As a space  very well received by the local community, its eviction in May 2016 triggered the escalation of protests in the neighbourhood. More information on the history of Banc Expropriat and its current relocation can be found at https://bancexpropiatgracia.wordpress.com/ [3] Members of the social movement that occupied/lived in the squat, re-occupied the site of the demolished building and created community gardens. [4] People that manage the urban commons space. [5] More information at https://www.instagram.com/ca_la_trava/?hl=en [6] More information at https://www.salvemlalzina.org/ [7] This is also the case of Navarinou Park in Athens. [8] More information at https://canbatllo.org/ [9] More information at https://ateneuharmonia.cat/ [10] More information at https://lleialtat.cat/ [11] More information at https://calabria66.net/ [12] More information at http://jardinsdemma.org/   --------- References Lain, B. (2015). New Common Institutions in Barcelona : A Response to the Commodification of the City ? 2014(March), 19–20.

Author: A.Pappa (ESR13)

Secondments

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Consortium

The combined knowledge provided by experts from the different fields and domains will contribute to create a transdisciplinary research framework in which early-stage career researchers (ESRs) will develop their individual projects on affordable and sustainable housing.

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9 European countries. Spain, France, UK, Croatia, Hungary, Cyprus, Netherlands, Portugal and Belgium.

10 higher-education institutions. The universities are represented by experts from several disciplines related to housing: architecture and planning, building and construction, sociology, economy, and law.

12 non-academic partner organisations. Partner organisations include construction companies, private and public developers, local administrations, research and advocacy groups, housing associations, social and international organizations.

RE-DWELL
in a nutshell

15 early-stage researchers investigate affordable and sustainable housing by intertwining design, planning and building, community participation and policy and financing.

a consortium of 22 organizations covering a range of academic disciplines and professional fields working on housing

a comprehensive training programme, with network specific courses complemented with training in the PhD programmes of the host universities

a blended learning environment to integrate onsite and online activities distributed across institutions

3 Workshops in Lisbon, Budapest and Zagreb; 3 Summer Schools in Nicosia, Valencia and Reading; and 2 international conferences in Grenoble and Barcelona

25 academic supervisors and co-supervisors supporting the individual research projects

a wide range of outreach activities to engage communities and professional organizations in the research and in the exploitation of research outputs