Against the backdrop of growing social and racial inequity, extractive land use practices, and privatized infrastructures, the contemporary debate on the commons is fueling the imagination of other possible worlds. Contemporary commoning efforts build on Indigenous kinship networks, reconstruction-era activism, and community land trusts, among many other global sites and practices, to orchestrate the collective ownership and governance of resources. Commoning redirects power away from states and markets and into communities whose labor and livelihoods have long supported and suffered colonial enclosure and speculative development.
The commons align with many architects’ efforts to build more sustainable, resilient, and equitable communities. At the same time, architects have shaped the same territorial logics of enclosure and growth that have fuel planetary urbanization and exacerbate climate change. These tensions might explain architects’ ambivalence in joining the thriving transdisciplinary and transnational commons conversation. Amidst these tensions, how can architects, landscape architects, urban designers and planners transition design towards a regenerative and redistributive commons-based economy?
“In Commons,” the theme of the 111th ACSA Annual Conference, invites scholars, practitioners, and thinkers to examine how architectural research, design, and pedagogy can expand the pluriversal nature of cooperativism and commoning. We welcome proposals for special focus sessions, workshops, and tours that imagine and interrogate the tools, protocols, virtual and physical spaces, materiality, aesthetics, forms, legacies, and narratives of the commons.
The architectural implications of commoning are manifold. From new forms of land ownership to typologies of collective housing, from radical care to circular economies, and from crowdsourcing to peer-to-peer production, the commons provide a lens to scrutinize prevalent modes of practice and incite radical imagination. Across these contexts, questions persist. Does the practice of commoning require wholesale overhaul or pragmatic co-optation of capitalist logics to disarm profit motives? How can the commons be shaped to extend from the particulars of materials, organisms, and everyday sociability to structural questions of reparations, global migration, and climate risk—and at each scale, who is part of the collective, and who is excluded? What skill sets are needed to visualize common interests and build consensus amidst insistent mistrust? If architecture can ever be an emancipatory project, it can begin in the academy by reflecting critically on dominant modalities of research and teaching, aiming at shedding colonial epistemologies and pedagogies.