The City Lived

Prof. Dr. Tom Avermaete

That politics influences urban design is clear. Political ideologies have an impact on the production of the city, while the entanglement of politics and urban design affects people’s experience of living in the city. In this seminar, the students explore concrete examples of ‘the politics of urban design’ in a diverse set of contexts: colonial urban landscapes, the post-conflict reconstruction of the Balkan region, the development of new housing estates in neoliberal France, and beyond. Inspired by these explorations, the students analyse urban design, placing particular emphasis on how urban design decisions have been informed by political ideology/ideological beliefs. On the basis of this analysis, students are asked to ‘launch’ their own political campaign to become mayor of that city. The main focus of this political campaign (evidently) has to be on urban planning and design and needs to address identified urban ideological challenges, such as the need to build ‘greener’ cities, healthier cities, more sustainable cities, more equitable/social cities, smart cities, and so on.

This course took place during the Fall 2019 semester.

Image: Poster for the Socialists in Belgium: ‘New times, renewed Belgium. Vote socialist’, 1960s

Dr. Hans Teerds
Dr. Janina Gosseye

The Commons Underground was taught by Nicole de Lalouvière, Irina Davidovici, and Janina Gosseye in the fall semester 2020 as the second instalment of the “The City Lived” seminar. In the context of this course, students employed the theoretical lens of the ‘commons’ to examine the ‘underground’ as a space within which public, private, and collective rights are negotiated and ultimately materialised. To probe this set of relations between the ‘commons’ and the ‘underground’, the seminar focused on built spaces, infrastructure, services and resources located under the surface and thus subject to different material and statutory regimes. The ‘commons underground’ present us with practices of cooperation, conflict resolution, and at times, oppression. Like most forms of commons, the underground brings forth recurring issues: access, ownership, maintenance, the drawing of socio-spatial boundaries, etc. All of these questions are relevant to the act of building in the underground. They also can be brought to bear on the limitations of subterranean spaces, including in their materiality, form, and dimensions. Beyond the surveyed space—described through ever-more sophisticated tools that measure, scan, and probe—the underground is the locus of commoning, a place constructed through lived experience and social practices. It is at once the subject of myth, a place of daily work, the result of technological expertise, and a medium of knowledge transfer. In the context of the seminar, the underground commons were considered in relation to various topics, including transport, sanitation, geology, soils, mining, defence, and heritage. Case studies were produced by the students as an attempt to build upon existing research into the commons.

This course took place during the Fall 2020 semester.

Dr. Irina Davidovici
Dr. Janina Gosseye
Nicole de Lalouvière

Commons Register
Irrigation systems of Canton Valais
Unlocking the Zürich Commons / Water
Constructing the Commons

’The City Lived – Unlocking a Multidisciplinary Discourse’ sets out to correct the existing historiographies of architecture by exploring interdisciplinary concepts and theories that shaped the architectural discourse in the second half of the 20th century. Through selected reading and expert lectures, these seminars introduce students to theories and concepts from the fields of gender and urban sociology that have been crucial in shaping the architectural discourse.

To test our interdisciplinary perspectives, we focus on a particularly productive ‘encounter’ between architects and other disciplines — The Any Conferences (1990-2001). The Any Conferences were ten exceptional cross-cultural and multidisciplinary conferences, with associated books, on the undecidability of architecture at the end of the second millennium, convened by editor Cynthia Davidson. In this series of exploratory conferences, it was not the product, but the encounter of ideas, thinking and concepts that was the goal. By inviting activists, art theorists, economists, artists, philosophers and the like to engage with architects in architectural discourse, The Any Conferences attempted to expose architecture and its theories to contemporary concerns.

During the course, we analyse one edition of The Any Conferences (1996 Anybody, Buenos Aires) from the perspectives of gender and urban sociology. Each student takes on the role of one of the participants, and tries to identify the position ‘their’ character would take in the conference. Through a series of (public) input lectures from experts in the various fields, students are introduced to key theories and methods in the fields of gender and urban sociology. With this newly gained knowledge, students are asked to analyse and interpret the same position in The Anybody Conference, but from the perspectives of a) gender, and b) urban sociology. By way of a ‘re-enactment’ of The Anybody Conference, students present their selected conference speaker’s participation from gender and urban sociology perspectives. A special workshop led by Dr Anne Hultzsch (gender perspectives) and Professor Emeritus Arnold Reijndorp (urban sociology perspectives) equips students with the methodological tools to cross these two disciplinary perspectives. During the final presentations, students play with traditional hierarchies and gender roles in a re-enactment that allows them to discover what new ideas happen in the crossing of gender and urban sociology perspectives.

This course took place during the Fall 2021 semester.

Dr. Cathelijne Nuijsink

Group photo of participants of The Anybody Conference in Buenos Aires 1996. (Image by Anyone Corporation), Cambridge: MIT Press, 1997 © CCA