Writing Commons Histories

Organizer: Tom Avermaete and Irina Davidovici
Date: Wednesday, 9 October 2019
Time: 14.00 to 16.30
Location: ETH Zurich, Hönggerberg, HIL D 75.1

The conventional narratives of progress and reform create frictionless histories of urban design and architecture. The premise of the State and Market as the drivers of inexorable urban processes place monographic figures, autonomous design strategies and institutional operations at the centre of architectural historical investigations.

This methodological workshop proposes an alternative historiography of the city, articulated through the lens of citizen action and common resources. We will examine the dual role of activism as driver of urban transformation and as topic for investigating the commons aspects of the city. Research on collective actors can help propel both theoretical knowledge (impacting or revising theories of urban design) and actual urban renewal in the city fabric (seeing how citizen action operates as driver for change).

The workshop will benefit from the input of two leading scholars on the topic of commons in architecture and art, Anette Baldauf and Stavros Stavrides. With reference to ongoing research projects, we will address the following questions: What sets of collective actors, both organised or informal, emerge as alternative topics of research? What methodological challenges arise from their study? How do we identify and characterise the urban and architectural agencies of activist groups and individuals engaged in immaterial, ephemeral and partial operations? And how do we piece together histories of the commons as histories of resistance?

Prof. Anette Baldauf (Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna) and
Prof. Stavros Stavrides (National Technical University, Athens)

The workshop requires advance registration by 5 October for a maximum of 20 participants. It is open to Master’s and doctoral students, postdocs, and faculty staff of ETH, and other Swiss higher education institutions. Please register by sending an e-mail to
A detailed programme will be made available to registered participants closer to the date.