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Urban Commons

Area: Community participation

Urban commons are shared resources in the city that are managed by their users in a collaborative and non-profit-oriented way. The concept is based on the idea that urban resources and services that represent fundamental rights in the city should be accessible to and governed by the urban dwellers, to support the social capital and the sustainability of the urban communities. Hence, their value lies mostly in the social benefit produced during their use and they are therefore different from commodities that follow traditional market principles of profit maximisation and private ownership (Dellenbaugh-Losse et al., 2015).

The concept of urban commons is an extrapolation in the urban context of the notion of commons which historically refers to natural resources available to all and not owned by any individual, such as air, water and land. The commons discourse became significantly popular thanks to the fundamental contribution of Elinor Ostrom (1990) and particularly after she was awarded the Nobel in Economics in 2009. Ostrom presented cases and design principals for the collective management of common resources by those that use and benefit from them, challenging the predominant negative connotations that had peaked with Garret Hardin’s (1968) Tragedy of the Commons where he analysed the impossible sustainability of common pool resources due to individual benefits.

During the last fifteen years, a vast body of academic literature on urban commons has been produced, linking the notion to other urban theories, such as the right to the city (Harvey, 2008; Lefebvre, 1996), biopolitics (Angelis & Stavrides, 2009; Hardt & Negri, 2009; Linebaugh, 2008; Parr, 2015; Stavrides, 2015, 2016), peer-to-peer urbanism and sharing economy (Dellenbaugh-Losse et al., 2015; Iaione, 2015; Iaione et al., 2019; McLaren & Agyeman, 2015; Shareable, 2018).

The notion of the urban commons encompasses resources, people and social practices (Dellenbaugh-Losse et al., 2015):

Commons resources are urban assets of various types, characteristics and scales (Dellenbaugh-Losse et al., 2015). Examples of commons resources include physical spaces, such as community gardens, street furniture and playgrounds; intangible elements such as culture and public art; services such as safety; digital spaces, such as internet access. Urban commons literature and practices have attempted to determine several typological categorisations of the urban commons resources, the most notable being that of Hess (2008), who classified them as cultural, knowledge, markets, global, traditional, infrastructure, neighbourhood, medical and health commons.

The commoners are the group that uses and manages the urban commons resources. It is a self-defined and organically formed group of individuals whose role is to collectively negotiate the boundaries and the rules of the management of the commons resources (Dellenbaugh-Losse et al., 2015). In a neighbourhood setting, for example, the commoners may be individual residents, or community groups, cooperatives, NGOs and local authorities. De Angelis and Stavrides (2010) points out that commoners might include diverse groups or communities that are not necessarily homogenous.

Commoning refers to the collaborative participatory process of accessing, negotiating and governing the commons resources. The term was introduced by Peter Linebaugh (2008) and refers to the “social process that creates and reproduces the commons” (Angelis & Stavrides, 2010). Commoning is a form of public involvement for the public good (Lohmann, 2016). Commoning implies a commitment to solidarity and cooperation, to the creation of added value to the community, to democracy and inclusiveness and is connected to a hacking culture(Dellenbaugh-Losse et al., 2015). Hence, commoning practices can include various activities such as co-creation, capacity building and placemaking, support through learning, innovation, performing art, protest, urban gardening and commuting.

In contemporary societies in crisis, the urban commons theory is often used as a counter-movement to the commodification of urban life and as a response to complex issues, proving essential for the well-being of marginalised communities and for the provision of affordable and sustainable housing. Urban commons management conveys the re-appropriation of urban values (Borch & Kornberger, 2015) breaking silos of expertise and knowledge by adopting a collaborative approach to defining and solving the problems at stake. The practice of urban commons helps to build values of openness, experimentation, creativity, trust, solidarity and commitment within stakeholder groups.

References

Angelis, M. De, & Stavrides, S. (2009). Beyond Markets or States: Commoning as Collective Practice (a public interview). An Architektur, 23. https://www.e-flux.com/journal/17/67351/on-the-commons-a-public-interview-with-massimo-de-angelis-and-stavros-stavrides/

Borch, C., & Kornberger, M. (2015). Urban commons: Rethinking the city. Routledge.

Dellenbaugh-Losse, M., Zimmermann, N.-E., & De Vries, N. (2015). The Urban Commons Cookbook: Strategies and Insights for Creating and Maintaining Urban Commons.

Hardin, G. (1968). The Tragedy of the Commons. Source: Science, New Series, 162(3859), 1243–1248.

Hardt, M., & Negri, A. (2009). Commonwealth. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Harvey, D. (2008). The right to the city. New Left Review, 53(23), 40.

Hess, C. (2008). Mapping the New Commons. SSRN Electronic Journal, July.

Iaione, C. (2015). GOVERNING THE URBAN COMMONS.

Iaione, C., De Nictolis, E., & Suman, A. B. (2019). The Internet of Humans (IoH): Human Rights and Co-Governance to Achieve Tech Justice in the City. Law and Ethics of Human Rights, 13(2), 263–299.

Lefebvre, H. (1996). The Right to the City. In E. Lebas, Elizabeth, Kofman (Ed.), Writings on Cities (Vol. 53, Issue 2, p. 260). Mass, USA Blackwell Publishers.

Linebaugh, P. (2008). The Magna Carta Manifesto, Liberties and Commons for All. University of California Press.

Lohmann, R. A. (2016). The Ostroms’ Commons Revisited. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 45(4_suppl), 27-42S.

McLaren, D., & Agyeman, J. (2015). Sharing Cities: A Case for Truly Smart and Sustainable Cities. The MIT Press.

Ostrom, E. (1990). Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. Cambridge University Press.

Parr, A. (2015). Urban Debt, Neoliberalism and the Politics of the Commons. Theory, Culture & Society, 32(3), 69–91.

Shareable. (2018). Sharing Cities: Activating the Urban Commons (Shareable (ed.)). Creative Commons.

Stavrides, S. (2015). Common Space as Threshold Space: Urban Commoning in Struggles to Re-appropriate Public Space. FOOTPRINT, 16(Spring 2015), 09–20.

Stavrides, S. (2016). Common Space: The City as Commons. Zed Books London.

Created on 14-10-2022 | Update on 18-10-2022

Related definitions

Area: Community participation

In a broader sense, co-creation means the joint effort of bringing something new to fruition through acts of collective creativity (Sanders & Stappers, 2008) which can be manifested in both tangible (making something together) or intangible (learning something together) outcomes (Puerari et al., 2018). Recently, the concepts of co-creation or co- production have been applied to describe the processes of participation in urban planning and design. Both terms place particular emphasis on the partnerships formed between citizens and the public sector, in which a high level of citizen involvement is pivotal. Participation has been defined through its different levels of citizen involvement, ranging from non-participation to greater degrees of citizen control (Arnstein, 1969) indicating the different levels of influence a participant can have on a participatory process. From the perspective of urban planning, citizen participation is beginning to be described as co-creation when citizens’ roles become more prominent, presenting aspects of self-organisation, increased commitment and a sense of ownership of the process (Puerari et al., 2018). Recent research is exploring new methods of urban planning in which citizens, the municipality and private organisations co-create new planning rules (Bisschops & Beunen, 2019). However, co-creation along with co-production and participation, often used interchangeably, have become popular catchphrases and are considered as processes which are of virtue in themselves. Furthermore, while there is substantial research on these processes, the research conducted on the outcomes of enhanced participation remains rather limited (Voorberg et al., 2015). This highlights the ambiguity in terms of interpretation; is co-creation a methodology, a set of tools to enhance and drive a process, or a goal in itself? (Puerari et al., 2018). There have often been cases where participation, co-creation and co-production have been used decoratively, as a form of justification and validation of decisions already made (Armeni, 2016). In the provision of public spaces, co-creation/co-production may specifically involve housing (Brandsen & Helderman, 2012; Chatterton, 2016) and placemaking: “placemaking in public space implies engaging in the practice of urban planning and design beyond an expert culture. Such collaboration can be described as co-creation.” (Eggertsen Teder, 2019, p.290). As in participation, co-creation requires the sharing of decision-making powers, the creation of  joint knowledge and the assignation of abilities between communities, while urban professionals and local authorities should draw attention to the active involvement of community members. Furthermore, co-creation does not take place in a vacuum, but always occurs within socio- spatial contexts. This points to the objective of co-creation as a tool to influence locally relevant policy through innovation that is “place-based”. To conclude, co-creation can be perceived as a process that is both transdisciplinary in its application, and as a tool for achieving transdisciplinarity on a broader scale through a systematic integration in existing standard practices in urban planning, housing design and architecture. Despite the persisting ambiguity in its definition, co-creation processes can provide more inclusive platforms for revisiting and informing formal and informal knowledge on sustainable and affordable housing.

Created on 16-02-2022 | Update on 21-02-2022

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Area: Community participation

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, participation is “the act of taking part in an activity or event”. Likewise, it can also mean “the fact of sharing or the act of receiving or having a part of something.” It derives from old French participacion which in turn comes from late Latin participationem, which means “partaking” (Harper, 2000).  References to participation can be found in many fields, including social sciences, economics, politics, and culture. It is often related to the idea of citizenship and its different representations in society. Hence, it could be explained as an umbrella concept, in which several others can be encompassed, including methodologies, philosophical discourses, and tools. Despite the complexity in providing a holistic definition, the intrinsic relation between participation and power is widely recognised. Its ultimate objective is to empower those involved in the process (Nikkhah & Redzuan, 2009). An early application of participatory approaches was the Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) which exerted a significant influence in developing new discourses and practices of urban settings (Chambers, 1994; Friedmann, 1994). In the late 1970s increasing attention was paid to the concept by scholars, and several associated principles and terminologies evolved, such as the participation in design and planning with the Scandinavian approach of cooperative design (Bφdker et al., 1995; Gregory, 2003). Participation in design or participatory design is a process and strategy that entails all stakeholders (e.g. partners, citizens, and end-users) partaking in the design process. It is a democratic process for design based on the assumption that users should be involved in the designs they will go on to use (Bannon & Ehn, 2012; Cipan, 2019; Sanoff, 2000, 2006, 2007). Likewise, participatory planning is an alternative paradigm that emerged in response to the rationalistic and centralized – top-down – approaches. Participatory planning aims to integrate the technical expertise with the preferences and knowledge of community members (e.g., citizens, non-governmental organizations, and social movements) directly and centrally in the planning and development processes, producing outcomes that respond to the community's needs (Lane, 2005). Understanding participation through the roles of participants is a vital concept. The work of Sherry Arnstein’s (1969) Ladder of Citizen Participation has long been the cornerstone to understand participation from the perspective of the redistribution of power between the haves and the have-nots. Her most influential typological categorisation work yet distinguishes eight degrees of participation as seen in Figure 1: manipulation, therapy, placation, consultation, informing, citizen control, delegated power and partnership. Applied to a participatory planning context, this classification refers to the range of influence that participants can have in the decision-making process. In this case, no-participation is defined as designers deciding based upon assumptions of the users’ needs and full-participation refers to users defining the quality criteria themselves (Geddes et al., 2019). A more recent classification framework that also grounds the conceptual approach to the design practice and its complex reality has been developed by Archon Fung (2006) upon three key dimensions: who participates; how participants communicate with one another and make decisions together, and how discussions are linked with policy or public action. This three-dimensional approach which Fung describes as a democracy cube (Figure 2), constitutes a more analytic space where any mechanism of participation can be located. Such frameworks of thinking allow for more creative interpretations of the interrelations between participants, participation tools (including immersive digital tools) and contemporary approaches to policymaking. Aligned with Arnstein’s views when describing the lower rungs of the ladder (i.e., nonparticipation and tokenism), other authors have highlighted the perils of incorporating participatory processes as part of pre-defined agendas, as box-ticking exercises, or for political manipulation. By turning to eye-catching epithets to describe it (Participation: The New Tyranny? by Cooke & Kothari, 2001; or The Nightmare of Participation by Miessen, 2010), these authors attempt to raise awareness on the overuse of the term participation and the possible disempowering effects that can bring upon the participating communities, such as frustration and lack of trust. Examples that must exhort practitioners to reassess their role and focus on eliminating rather than reinforcing inequalities (Cooke & Kothari, 2001).

Created on 17-02-2022 | Update on 08-03-2022

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Community Empowerment

Author: Z.Tzika (ESR10)

Area: Community participation

Community empowerment appears in the literature of participatory action research (Minkler, 2004), participatory planning (Jo & Nabatchi, 2018), and community development (Luttrell et al., 2009) as a key element of participatory practices, understanding it as a process that enables communities to take control of their lives and their environments (Rappaport, 2008; Zimmerman, 2000). Many argue that community participation becomes meaningless if it does not lead to, or pass through community empowerment. As the term is being used in diverse and ubiquitous ways, it runs the risk of ending up as an empty definition and a catch-all phrase (McLaughlin, 2015). It is therefore important to specify the perspective through which we will view the term and clarify the nuances.  Since its origins, empowerment has been used in two different ways. Firstly, top-down as the power that had been ‘granted’ by a higher authority, such as the state or a religious institution, and secondly, bottom-up, as a process by which groups or individuals come to develop the capacity to act and acquire power. Examples of the latter can be found in social groups such as feminists working in nongovernmental organizations throughout the global south in the 1970s, who found a way to address social issues and inequalities that enabled social transformation based on women’s self-organization (Biewener & Bacqué, 2015). The term was gradually appropriated by welfare, neoliberal, and social-neoliberal agendas whose priority was individual agency and choice. In neoliberal rationality, empowerment is related to efficiency, economic growth, business productivity, and individual rational choice to maximize profit in a competitive market economy. In social liberalism agendas, empowerment is understood as ‘effective agency’, where ‘agency’ is not an inherent attribute, but something that needs to be constructed through ‘consciousness-raising’ (McLaughlin, 2016). A broader definition sees empowerment as a social action process through which individuals, communities, and organizations take control of their lives in the context of changing the social and political environment to improve equity and quality of life (Rappaport, 2008; Zimmerman, 2000). Rowlands (1997), refers to four types of empowerment: power over, as the ability to influence and coerce; power to, to organize and change existing hierarchies; power with, as the power from the collective action and power within, as the power from the individual consciousness. Using this classification, Biewener & Bacqué (2015), adopting a feminist approach, understand empowerment as a multilevel construct with three interrelated dimensions: 1) an internal, psychological one, where ‘power within’ and ‘power to’ are developed, 2) an organizational, where ‘power with’ and ‘power over’ are strengthened and 3) a social or political level, where institutional and structural change is made possible through collective action. Thus, community empowerment links the individual level, which involves self-determination, growth of individual awareness, and self-esteem, to the collective level, relating critical consciousness and capacity building with the structural level, where collective engagement and transformative social action take place. This view of empowerment, which considers its goals and processes, has a social dimension that is lacking in other approaches that prioritize individual empowerment. Aside from the feminist movements, the philosophy and practices of community empowerment have been greatly influenced by the work of Paulo Freire, a Brazilian educator and an advocate on critical pedagogy. Freire proposed a dialogic problem-solving process based on equality and mutual respect between students and teachers; that engaged them in a process of iterative listening-discussing-acting. Through structured dialogue, group participants shared their experiences, discussed common problems, and looked for root causes and the connections among “problems behind the problems as symptoms” (Freire, 1970). The term conscientization, that Freire proposed, refers to the consciousness that arises through the involvement of people in the social analysis of conditions and their role in changing them. This awareness enables groups to be reflexive and open spaces, to enact change or to understand those limited situations that may deter change (Barndt, 1989). Empowerment can be understood as both a process and an outcome (Jo & Nabatchi, 2018). As a process, it refers to “the development and implementation of mechanisms to enable individuals or groups to gain control, develop skills and test knowledge”(Harrison & Waite, 2015) and it entails the creation of new subjects who have developed a critical consciousness and the formation of groups with a ‘collective agency’ ‚ or ‘social collective identity’ (Biewener & Bacqué, 2015). Empowerment as an outcome refers to “an affective state in which the individual or group feels that they have increased control, greater understanding and are involved and active” (Harrison & Waite, 2015). This can lead to a transformation of the social conditions by challenging the structures and institutionalized forms that reproduce inequalities. The values and the significance of community empowerment can be further applied in the participatory and community-based approaches of the housing sector. Examples of such approaches in the housing provision are the housing cooperatives, and self-developed and self-managed housing groups. Housing cooperatives aim at promoting co-creation to engage future residents, professionals, and non-profit organizations in all the stages of a housing project: problem-framing, designing, developing, cohabiting, managing, and maintaining. Such organisational models stress the importance and pave the way for community empowerment by uniting individuals with similar interests and ideals, enabling them to have housing that responds to their needs, preferences, and values. The participation of the residents aims to strengthen their sense of ownership of the process, the democratic decision-making and management, and the social collective identity, making community empowerment an integral characteristic of cooperative housing initiatives. With this social perspective, residents can gain individual and collective benefits while contributing to fairer and more sustainable urban development on a larger scale (Viskovic Rojs et al., 2020).

Created on 03-06-2022 | Update on 03-06-2022

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Social Sustainability

Author: A.Panagidis (ESR8)

Area: Community participation

From the three pillars of sustainable development, economic, environmental and social, the latter  involving social equity and the sustainability of communities, has  been especially neglected. Ongoing problems caused by conflicting economic, environmental and social goals with regard to the processes of urbanisation continue. underpinning economic growth that contradict principles of environmental and social justice (Boström, 2012; Cuthill, 2010; Winston, 2009). Research on sustainable development highlights the need for further investigation of social sustainability (Murphy, 2012; Vallance et al., 2011). Social sustainability has been interpreted as an umbrella term encompassing many other related concepts; “social equity and justice, social capital, social cohesion, social exclusion, environmental justice, quality of life, and urban liveability” (Shirazi & Keivani, 2019, p. 4). A vast number of studies have been dedicated to defining social sustainability by developing theoretical frameworks and indicators particularly relevant to urban development and housing discourse (Cuthill, 2010; Dempsey et al., 2011; Murphy, 2012; Woodcraft, 2012). However, with a lack of consensus on the way of utilising these frameworks in a practical way, especially when applied to planning, social sustainability has remained difficult to evaluate or measure. Consequently, planning experts, housing providers and inhabitants alike understand social sustainability as a normative concept, according to established social norms, and less as an opportunity to critically examine existing institutions. Vallance et al (2011) provide three categories to analyse social sustainability, development, bridge and maintenance sustainability: (a) social development improves conditions of poverty and inequity, from the provision of basic needs to the redistribution of power to influence existing development paradigms; (b) the conditions necessary to bridge social with ecological sustainability, overcoming currently disconnected social and ecological concerns; and (c) the social practices, cultural preferences as well as the environments which are maintained over time. Maintenance social sustainability particularly deals with how people interpret what is to be maintained and includes “new housing developments, the layout of streets, open spaces, residential densities, the location of services, an awareness of habitual movements in place, and how they connect with housing cultures, preferences, practices and values, particularly those for low-density, suburban lifestyles” (Vallance et al., 2011, p. 345). Therefore, the notion of maintenance is especially important in defining social sustainability by directly investigating the established institutions, or “sets of norms” that constitute the social practices and rules, that in turn, affect responsibilities for planning urban spaces. A conceptual framework that appears frequently in social sustainability literature is that of Dempsey et al. (2011)⁠ following Bramley et al. (2009), defining social sustainability according to the variables of social equity and sustainability of community and their relationship to urban form, significantly at the local scale of the neighbourhood. In terms of the built environment, social equity (used interchangeably with social justice) is understood as the accessibility and equal opportunities to frequently used services, facilities, decent and affordable housing, and good public transport. In this description of local, as opposed to regional services, proximity and accessibility are important. Equitable access to such local services effectively connects housing to key aspects of everyday life and to the wider urban infrastructures that support it. Sustainability of community is associated with the abilities of society to develop networks of collective organisation and action and is dependent on social interaction. The associated term social capital has also been used extensively to describe social norms and networks that can be witnessed particularly at the community level to facilitate collective action (Woolcock, 2001, p. 70). They might include a diversity of issues such as resident interaction, reciprocity, cooperation and trust expressed by common exchanges between residents, civic engagement, lower crime rates and other positive neighbourhood qualities that are dependent on sharing a commitment to place (Foster, 2006; Putnam, 1995; Temkin & Rohe, 1998). In fact, “the heightened sense of ownership and belonging to a locale” is considered to encourage the development of social relations (Hamiduddin & Adelfio, 2019, p. 188). However, the gap between theoretical discussions about social sustainability and their practical application has continued. For example, the emphasis of social sustainability as a target outcome rather than as a process has been prioritised in technocratic approaches to planning new housing developments and to measuring their success by factors which are tangible and easier to count and audit. Private housing developers that deal with urban regeneration make bold claims to social sustainability yet profound questions are raised regarding the effects of gentrification (Dixon, 2019). Accordingly, the attempted methods of public participation as planning tools for integrating the ‘social’ have been found to be less effective - their potential being undercut due to the reality that decision-making power has remained at the top (Eizenberg & Jabareen, 2017). Therefore, social sustainability is not a fixed concept, it is contingent on the interdependence of the procedural aspects (how to achieve social sustainability) and substantive aspects (what are the outcomes of social sustainability goals) (Boström, 2012). From this point of view, social sustainability reveals its process-oriented nature and the need to establish processes of practicing social sustainability that begin with the participation of citizens in decision-making processes in producing equitable (i.e. socially sustainable) development. As a dimension of sustainable development that is harder to quantify than the economic or environmental aspects, the operationalisation of social sustainability goals into spatial, actionable principles has remained a burgeoning area of research. In such research, methods for enhancing citizen participation are a particularly important concern in order to engage and empower people with “non-expert” knowledge to collaborate with academic researchers.

Created on 03-06-2022 | Update on 08-06-2022

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Community-led housing

Author: Z.Tzika (ESR10)

Area: Community participation

Community-led housing involves residents, often organised into community groups, actively participating in planning, designing, financing and managing housing projects to meet their specific needs and preferences. This active involvement nurtures a sense of community ownership and control. This sense of community encompasses  feelings of belonging, shared identity, and mutual support among the residents of a community-led housing initiatives. The term is sometimes used interchangeably with the term "collaborative housing". Collaborative housing also refers to a participatory approach to housing development; however, the focus is on collaboration with the different stakeholders and encompasses various non-profit housing delivery models. While self-organised collective housing efforts are nothing new, a new wave of such initiatives has emerged in Europe since the 2000s (Lang et al., 2018; Tummers, 2016). In recent decades, market-provided housing has been the predominant model in Europe, often prioritising economic gain over the right to adequate shelter. The primary housing options from a tenure perspective are home ownership and rent, which are not always affordable for low-income groups (OECD, 2020, 2020). As a result, many communities are coming together to create secure and affordable housing solutions (Jarvis, 2015). However, the motivations behind these initiatives can vary among the involved groups and may reflect economic, ideological, social or ecological ideals (Caldenby et al., 2020). Some of these motivations include creating affordable homes, exploring more sustainable living practices, and fostering a sense of community and social cohesion. In contrast to other forms of collective housing, community-led housing schemes do not merely emphasize resource or living space sharing: they empower the community to play a proactive role in shaping their built and living environment. According to the Co-operative Councils Innovative Network (2018), community-led housing are developments that meet the following criteria: There is meaningful community engagement throughout the process, even if they did not initiate or build the scheme. The community has a long-term formal role in the ownership or management of the homes. The benefits of the scheme to the local area and/or specified community group are clearly defined and legally protected in perpetuity. Community-led housing can take diverse forms, contingent upon the extent of involvement from the participating communities and the specific type of development. These manifestations range from grassroots groups independently initiating projects to meet their housing needs, to community organizations spearheading housing initiatives. Additionally, developers, such as local authorities or housing associations, can initiate partnerships to provide housing solutions with a community-led component (Lang et al., 2020). Furthermore, concerning the development model, community-led housing can encompass constructing new homes, repurposing vacant homes and managing existing housing units. Each of these approaches has the potential to significantly influence the broader neighbourhood context (Fromm, 2012). The forms of community-led housing include: Housing cooperatives: These are groups of people who provide and collectively manage, homes for themselves as tenants or shared owners, based on democratic membership principles. Cohousing: These consist of like-minded people who come together to provide self-contained private homes for themselves while collectively managing their scheme and often sharing activities, including communal spaces. Cohousing can be developer-led, so it is important to examine whether cases meet the broad definition given above, rather than simply use the term cohousing as a marketing device. Community Land Trusts (CLTs): These are not-for-profit corporations that hold land as a community asset and serve as long-term providers of rental housing or shared ownership. Self-help housing: Small, community-based organisations bringing empty properties back into use, often without mainstream funding and with a strong emphasis on construction skills training and support. Tenant-Managed Organisations: They provide social housing tenants with collective responsibility for managing and maintaining the homes through an agreement with their council or housing association.   These models are adaptable and not mutually exclusive; for example, a co-housing group could choose to establish either a cooperative or a Community Land Trust (CLT). It is important to note that there are variations in how these models are applied in different contexts and countries. For local authorities, community-led housing offers several advantages. It improves the housing supply and the availability of affordable homes, diversifying the housing market while ensuring the long-term affordability of housing units. Additionally, community-led housing supports urban regeneration efforts and repurposes vacant homes. It has the potential to empower communities so that they become more self-sufficient. By involving residents in addressing their housing needs, these initiatives provide opportunities for vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, mono-parental families, etc., to live in supportive communities. Such housing schemes can be developed in various contexts, offering solutions for different housing challenges, including informal settlements, former refugee camps, and the heavily owner-occupied housing markets of South and Eastern Europe.

Created on 05-10-2023 | Update on 30-10-2023

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Placemaking

Author: A.Pappa (ESR13)

Area: Community participation

Placemaking in the urban realm is a holistic approach that foments the collaborative transformation of public spaces into vibrant, inclusive and engaging places. The core objective of placemaking is reflected in David Engwicht’s analogy: “placemaking is like turning a house into a home” (Placemaking.Education, no date), that is, to transform a mere physical location or space into an emotionally resonant and socially connected place. Placemaking encompasses not only the planning and design of spaces but also their sustainable management (Project for Public Spaces, 2016). The placemaking theory has been developed on the principle that urban and architectural projects should prioritize people and their emotions over cars and shopping centres. This idea originated in groundbreaking work of intellectuals from the 1960s, such as Jane Jacobs[1] and William H. Whyte[2]. Building upon their work, the term ‘placemaking’ started being used in the 1970s by architects and planners to describe the process of transforming public spaces into enjoyable destinations. Since then, a number of placemaking organisations, most notably the pioneering Project for Public Spaces (PPS)[3], have played a pivotal role in guiding community leaders toward the value of reinvesting in existing communities instead of pursuing endless urban sprawl. These organisations have raised awareness that this approach is both economically and environmentally more sustainable (Ellery, Ellery and Borkowsky, 2021). Over the last few decades, placemaking has been extensively used to describe various approaches in urban development, ranging from community-driven emancipatory practices, such as reclaiming underused neighbourhood spaces, to top-down strategic plans for neighbourhood revitalisations. Theoretical discussions have attempted to categorize placemaking processes with regards to ignition, goal, scale, budget and involvement, among others (Courage et al., 2021). One widely adopted classification among placemaking scholars is Wyckoff’s (2014) distinction of four types:    Standard Placemaking (or simply placemaking) aims at creating quality places and reviving existing public spaces. This approach is pursued by the public, non-profit, or private sector, employing community participation into a variety of projects and activities. These projects are often incremental, such as street and façade improvements, residential rehabs, which may encompass public spaces and small-scale projects. Tactical Placemaking focuses on creating quality places using a deliberate approach to change, developed in phases that begin with quick, short-term commitments and realistic expectations. Over time, short-term activities and projects achieve gradual transformations in public spaces. Tactical placemaking can be initiated by local development strategies or from bottom-up. It includes activities such as parking space conversions, self-guided historic walks, outdoor music events, and temporary conversion of buildings. Creative Placemaking utilises arts and cultural activities to strategically shape the identity of a neighbourhood, city, or region. The processes include revitalisation of buildings, structures and streetscapes, often improving the local business viability and public safety. Strategic Placemaking is targeted at achieving specific goals, such as raising the economic, social and cultural prosperity of a community in addition to creating quality places. This can be achieved by interventions that attract talented workers in certain locations, such as mixed-use places that are pedestrian-oriented, bike-friendly, as well as supporting recreation, arts and housing options. Naturally, implementing placemaking processes come with their own risks. Similar to other forms of civic participation, placemaking can sometimes become a buzzword for urban renewal programmes, especially when used to drive economic development of an area through spatial upgrade. When the goal is to replace an existing place with one considered an improvement, it is likely that the affected people may experience negative effects, such as direct or indirect displacement. In this regard, as placemaking strategies, aimed at revitalising underutilised spaces into vibrant places, consequently enhancing the location’s attractiveness and value, are often criticised for potentially fuelling gentrification trends rather than alleviating them (Placemaking Europe, 2019).   [1] In her work, epitomised in her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), Jacobs introduced the idea of “eyes on the street” that advocates for citizen ownership on the street. [2] Whyte’s groundbreaking work The social Life of Small Urban Spaces (1980), summarises his extensive research on the Street Life Project in New York, in which he recorded the human behaviour in the urban setting, concluding to the essential elements for creating social life in public spaces. (see more at Projects for Public Spaces, William H. Whyte) [3] Organisation led by Fred Kent and consisted of an interdisciplinary team, has been advancing placemaking processes since 1975 originally in the US and recently globally. Developing roadmaps and toolboxes that place community participation at the centre of action they have engaged with more than 35000 communities in 52 countries (About — Project for Public Spaces, no date), while at the same time sharing their placemaking experiences and principles (see Project for Public Spaces Inc., 2015) through networking activities and courses.

Created on 08-11-2023 | Update on 15-11-2023

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Public-civic Partnership

Author: A.Pappa (ESR13)

Area: Community participation

Public-civic partnerships (PCPs) or public-community collaborations, as discussed by Hopman et al., (2021), are forms of cooperation between the state and civil society. They involve transferring the ownership and control of urban resources to the hands of citizens. In this context, they can be viewed as commons-led institutional models, offering a ground of commoning the city. Consequently, they are also referred to as public commons partnerships (Milburn & Russell, 2019). Public-civic partnerships offer alternatives to the traditional binary state and market dynamic seen in the public-private partnership (PPP) model, which gained prominence after 2000 as a new form of cooperation between the state and the private sector. PPPs are characterized by long-term arrangements in which private sector contractors take on design, construction, operational, and sometimes financial responsibilities, becoming providers of traditionally public services (European Commision, 2003). However, PPP models have faced criticism for privatizing public goods, services and spaces, often prioritising private investment over public interests (Horvat, 2019).   On the contrary, PCPs propose an alternative approach. Instead of relying on private investors for the development of crucial urban infrastructure, public bodies collaborate with communities to design, produce and govern this infrastructure as commons. By doing so, PCPs drive systemic change,  offering innovative methods to democratize urban governance. They empower communities to transparently work with the public sector, determining the future of public assets such as food, care, water, energy, housing, and urban development (Heron, Milburn & Russell, 2021; Hopman et al., 2021). In recent years, cities such as Barcelona, Bologna, Naples, Ghent and Amsterdam, among others, have been developing commons-oriented strategies and municipal networks that enable and promote PCPs. These initiatives are often facilitated through contracts or ‘collaboration pacts’ (Foster & Iaione, 2016) among different stakeholders, notably from the civic and social sectors. The regulatory frameworks and operationalisation details, such as the legal form of the partnering entities, the duration of ownership transfers, and approved interventions in public spaces, vary from case to case (Bianchi, 2022). Experiences from the implementation of these policies show that several influential factors affect the development of PCPs. These are ideological, legal, political and economic in nature and include political will, existing laws, development strategies. material and funding sources, access to information, cooperation opportunities between the public and civic sectors, and further education of both realms on cooperation models (Cultural Creative Spaces & Cities, 2018). Among the several types of resources shared through PCPs, many municipal strategies facilitate the sharing of public spaces, which has significant implications from a sustainable local development point of view. These strategies involve the temporary or long-term transfer of ownership of municipal spaces, including empty buildings and building parts, streets and open spaces, and industrial heritage sites, to citizens or various associations formed between them and other sectors. Through these partnerships, sites are regenerated, transformed, and used for the benefit of the neighbourhood, while the public sector retains a supportive role. Throughout this process, several places and services, such as communal gardens, neighbourhood parks, solidary kitchens, caregiving and solidarity services, as well as community, educational and cultural centres, are created locally, by and for the residents.    

Created on 08-11-2023 | Update on 15-11-2023

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Spatial Agency

Author: E.Roussou (ESR9)

Area: Community participation

 “Spatial agency”, a term popularised by Jeremy Till, Tatjana Schneider, and Nishat Awan (Awan et al., 2011; Schneider & Till, 2009) emerged from two growing demands: firstly, the need to decentralise the normative practice and role of architecture within spatial production, and secondly to expand the profession, by elevating diverse human and non-human actors, and various practices that move beyond the confines of what is typically understood as architecture (Lorne, 2017). Ignited by Cedric Price’s call for disrupting the idea that a building is the direct and solely available solution to spatial matters (Matthews, 2006), and drawing upon Lefebvre’s notion of “right to the city” (Lorne, 2017; Purcell, 2014), spatial agency aims to challenge the hegemonic status quo in spatial production by shifting the focus from the urban environment as a collection of tangible objects, to a dynamic socio-political process, and an entanglement of actors and practices that shape it and are shaped in return. Spatial agency Space, according to Lefebvre is a social product (1991, p. 360). This acknowledgment primarily highlights three facts: (1) there is no neutrality when it comes to the production of space. Space is the result of an agonistic relation between the components of the conceptual triad of space[1], resulting from the various conflicts and clashes between social groups with different interests, values, and backgrounds (Awan et al., 2011; Lefebvre, 1991). (2) There is a clear distinction and yet a “contradictory unity” between the exchange value, i.e. the usefulness of a commodity in terms of its capacity to generate economic revenue within the market, and the use value, i.e. the usefulness of a commodity in terms of its effective response to an actual need (Pitts, 2021, p. 36). Within the current economic system, more often than not, the exchange value overpowers the use value (Purcell, 2014). (3) To ensure that the use value of a given space is guaranteed, spatial production should not be the sole domain of experts and those who hold power, but rather citizens and stakeholders should engage in “real and active participation” (Lefebvre, 1991, p. 145; Purcell, 2014). Spatial agency All of the above attempt to answer the question on who should have agency over spatial production, beyond the mandates of the current economic system. Anthony Giddens defined “agency” as a notion in a perpetuate dialectic relation with “structure” (1987, p. 220). While agency is the capacity of an individual to decide and act freely, structure outlines the framework of rules, constraints and limitations that shape a society, and both function as interrelated notions (i.e. none may exist without the other). Awan, Till & Schneider follow Giddens’ take on agency, which dictates that no one -and nothing- is either “completely free […] or completely entrapped by structure” (2011, p. 32), but rather somewhere in between.  This means that space neither entirely shapes society, nor is it entirely defined by society, and “spatial agents” neither act in full freedom nor are they fully restrained by structure. This creates a contextual dependency (different contexts bear different “restraints”) that emphasises the situatedness of any practice within the scope of spatial agency. Spatial agency Spatial agency refers to the capacity of individuals or groups to actively shape and transform their built environment. It is a term that transcends and expands architecture, re-emphasises the need for a critical and politically conscious approach in spatial production and seeks to illustrate both an education and practice of synergies that puts “spatial judgement, mutual knowledge and critical awareness” at the forefront (Awan et al., 2011, p. 34; Lorne, 2017). Through spatial agency, one may embrace the uncertainties that emerge within the highly agonistic and dynamic nature of spatial production.       [1] The conceptual spatial triad, as iterated by Henri Lefebvre: space is not a monolith of tangible, physical elements, but rather it exists on different planes of understanding. Those planes are the perceived space (spatial practice), i.e. what one can see and feel around them, the lived space (representational space), which reflects the everydayness, the activities and the social life, and the conceived space (representations of space), i.e. the projections, plans and ideas on how a space could be used. 

Created on 30-01-2024 | Update on 21-02-2024

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Design Activism

Author: E.Roussou (ESR9)

Area: Community participation

Activism as a term illustrating the urban phenomena of citizen mobilisation and direct action(s) towards political, social and environmental change that emerged during the early 20th century (Hornby, 1995). Seen also as a “means of overcoming alienation” (Graeber, 2009, p. 231), numerous forms of activism were significantly influenced by the Situationist International, which advocated the creation of spontaneous, subversive “situations” as a response to the increasing commodification and individualisation of everyday life (Debord, 1992). In this sense, activism can be seen as a means to repoliticise and breathe meaning into an everydayness[1] characterised by passive bystanding and to create instances where people are able to redefine their agency as urban dwellers and political subjects[2] (Graeber, 2009). Design activism has been defined as any practice that “draws attention to change in the context of design through positive experimentation and action, introducing a designerly way of intervening into people’s lives” (Mallo et al., 2020, p. 102). According to Markussen (2013), it reflects the role and potential of various design fields in (1) promoting social change, (2) express values and beliefs in a tangible way and (3) question the systemic constraints that impact people’s daily lives. Due to the rising levels of precarity, caused by the increasing neoliberalisation of politics, policies and everyday life on a global scale (Brown, 2015), design activism in architecture and urban planning (often associated with DIY urbanism) has been gaining traction over the past decades among scholars and practitioners, as a transformative means of renegotiating the role of architecture and planning within the mechanisms of spatial production, as well as reasserting citizens’ agency over their urban environment (Markussen, 2023). Design activism in architecture may operate both symbolically, in order to illustrate and highlight socio-spatial injustice (e.g. Santiago Cirugeda’s[3] insect house) and pragmatically, through the creation (disruptive) of spatial configurations “across a number of people and artefacts” (Mallo et al., 2020, p. 102), in a direct-action manner, with the aim of improving people’s livelihoods. Direct action can be “any collective undertaking that is both political in intent and carried out in the knowledge that it might be met with hostility […]” (Graeber, 2009, p. 359). The element of direct action emphasises both the immersiveness, the astute responsiveness to actual circumstances and the moving away from a general, pre-defined, vague and ultimately co-opted “social good” (Fuad-Luke, 2017), towards a more situated understanding of urban space and people’s needs. Collaborative, “unalienating” acts of urban creativity, connect (architectural) design activism to practices such as participatory design, co-creation and concepts like spatial agency, all of which employ different means to reassert urban dwellers’ position as crucial and indispensable parts in decision-making processes. Scholarly criticisms towards design activism focus on its temporal and experimental nature, which renders quantifying and crystallising the long-term effect on urban landscapes and dwellers difficult (Mallo et al., 2020). Arguably, its situatedness may also pose an obstacle towards the creation of any universal toolkit, strategy or course of action that could be transferable to different contexts and employed to tackle varying circumstances. It remains, however, a vital phenomenon towards fostering agency and a shared sense of citizenship and camaraderie, repoliticising architecture and planning practices, as well as nurturing a culture of working (ant)agonistically towards incremental change in the cities, one intervention at a time.          [1] Georg Simmel described and everydayness where bystanding and lack of concern are primary “symptoms of what he called “blasé attitude”. This term emerged so as to illustrate the overstimulating everydayness of the sprawling capitalist metropolises of the late 19th - early 20th century that renders individuals idle (“The metropolis and mental life”, first published in 1903). Contrary to Simmel, Michel de Certeau posits that individuals operating under imposed regulations and conditions, may find ways to interpret them differently, even subvert them, often by unconsciously utilising systems of socio-cultural references that may deviate from the dominant one(s) (De Certeau, 1984). [2] “A subject develops an understanding of itself as a political subject only by executing decisive political actions” (Calcagno, 2008) [3] More information on this project can be found here: https://unprojects.org.au/article/architecture-on-the-fringes-of-legality-santiago-cirugeda-kyohei-sakaguchi/ & here: https://www.cca.qc.ca/actions/fr/node/82

Created on 13-02-2024 | Update on 05-03-2024

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