performing commons architecture


  1. commons architecture
  1. performance & performativity
  • 2.1 performance: how architectural qualities enable or disable commons via case studies
  • 2.2 performative: a discourse analysis 

2.1 cases: josaphat
les grand voisins


Hulya Ertas, Caroline Newton, Burak Pak

keywords: commons, performance, performativity, design knowledge,  commons architecture

In this contribution we put forward the concept of commons architecture as a performance and performativity that allows the empowerment of individuals and collectives alike. It is through this performance that design knowledge is co-produced, shared openly and employed to address a social need. To illustrate how this bold claim takes shape we structure our contribution as follows. 

First we discuss the core concept and their relations. Thus we elaborate on what commons architecture is and what it is definitely not and explain why we define the concepts as such. Commons architecture (Ertas & Pak, 2018) is not the architecture of the commons, since this term indicates a unidirectional relationship where architecture is created for the commons and is deprived of its transformative agency. It is not common(ing) architecture because in this perspective architecture is rendered as the main shared resource. Commons architecture, on the other hand, emphasizes the plural agencies of architecture for commoning practices while it keeps being in permanent transformation to enable subjectivities to perform themselves. Taking Judith Butler’s theory of subjectivation (1990) and reframing the well-established understanding of “gender is performed” we explore how commons architecture is performed and which social/cultural constructions we require and desire for this performance.  

We then, in the second section, unfold commons architecture in its performance and performativity (Gregson & Rose, 2000). Firstly, through case studies we try to understand how individuals and collectives act to shape and reshape commons architecture. We discuss how architectural qualities enable or disable these actions. Secondly, we focus on the performative aspect of commons architecture. A discourse analysis of already existing projects that claim to be commons architecture will scrutinise their performative practice. We try to understand how the discourse is constructed in search of a transformational practice of commoning via prefiguration, by “creating change in the here and now and living the ‘other worlds’ to make them
possible” (Harding, 2015). Often used terms,  such as solidarity, autopoiesis, self-governance, empowerment, autonomy, are further discussed in relation to their contribution for defining commons architecture. 

We conclude by formulating a set of guidelines or by discussing the reasons why guidelines for performing commons architecture are impossible to define. Through this contribution we hope to understand performance and performativity of commons architecture and its embedded design knowledge in action. 

Butler, J. (1990). Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity. New York, NY: Routledge.

Gregson, N., & Rose, G. (2000). Taking Butler Elsewhere: Performativities, Spatialities and Subjectivities. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 18(4), 433–452.

Eloise Harding, E. (2015). Prefiguration versus the “Reformist Drift” in the Camp for Climate Action. Capitalism Nature Socialism, Vol. 26, No. 4, 141–157,

Ertas, H., Pak, B. (2018). What is Commons Architecture? In: MetaCity: Ways of thinking and making city, (96-105). Presented at the TICYUrb- Third International Conference of Young Urban Researchers, Lisbon. 


e-mail notes, april 1st

Full papers should range between 6000-8000 words including footnotes and bibliography.
Paper submission: 1st of September.

Particular to your abstract we advise the following:
  1. Interesting concept of performativity and architecture.
  1. A more explicit definitions of architecture in this context will be of benefit to the argument.
  1. Exploring the various links between the commons and the performativity of relations can be a strong contribution to the debate.