Thematic Exhibition: Nine Commons

Does the scenario, determined by the rise of the Anthropocene and the crisis of neo-liberal capitalism, imply that the work of urbanists and architects has become futile? Has urbanism been expelled from politics, now at the mercy of capital redistribution? On the contrary, some economists argue that urban planning, housing, and real estate hold the key to resolving urban inequality. Cities precede the installation of political systems, and have systematically outlasted them, often constituting themselves in mechanisms of resistance to power. 

For cities to become devices for the common good rather than instruments producing and implementing power structures —and often inequality or ecological destruction— urban practices need to locate resources and technologies at their core. Rather than splitting urban life into functions easily captured by power, we should try to identify first where the imminent urban commons are and how to reconstruct them as instruments of devolution and ecological awareness, constructed transversally across technologies and resources. We have tried to outline what those might be, and how they may become the source of a revision of urban practices. With the aim to construct a new posthuman cosmology,  we propose a revision of urban cosmologies—the four ecology commons of air, water, fire and earth, and the six technological commons of making, moving, communicating, sensing and recycling.

Nine Commons Guide map

Four Ecology Commons: Air

Air, together with water, is the quintessential commons that binds all living things together. Yet seven million people die every year from exposure to air-induced diseases. Even as technologies such as cloud seeding, carbon sequestration, and adiabatic cooling allow cities to mitigate pollution, increase air exchange rates, and natural ventilation, their jurisdiction over this ubiquitous commons remains an open question. As cities come to the forefront of climate governance, the opportunity for new cultural constructs and design solutions for a contemporary cosmopolitics of air must be explored. 

Seoul On-Air

Maider Llaguno-Munitxa, Biayna Bogosian

Yellow Dust

C+ arquitectos, In The Air (Nerea Calvillo with Raúl Nieves, Pep Tornabell and Yee Thong Chai)

The Aerocene Explorer

The Aerocene Foundation, Tomás Saraceno

Four Ecology Commons: Water

Rising sea levels, environmental disasters, and the increasing privatization of water resources are expected to have a massive impact on cities around the world. Key urban territories such as waterfronts and riverfronts, for example, are threatened by rising water levels and plummeting real estate values. From the development of new urban envelopes and bioswales, the recovery of buried streams and wells as urban commons, to new governance systems and urban practices, a wide range of hydrologic initiatives must be explored.


Carlo Ratti, Newsha Ghaeli, Wonyoung So, Mariana Matus, Shinkyu Park, Eric Alm

The Ocean Commons and the Culture of Seaweeds

MAP Office

Four Ecology Commons: Fire

Fire, the placeholder for energy, is a vital urban commons, traditionally centralized in its material and cultural production. Fossil fuel consumption, bringing climate change, pollution, and environmental disasters, is nearing exhaustion. Solar, wind, tidal, and ground-sourced energy sources and new horizontal modes of power distribution are redefining the urban cosmopolitics. As sustainable energy is primarily mediated through electricity and varies according to local climate and geology, locally responsive policies, strategies, and architectural practices are critical in bringing forth its full potential. By taking into account local climatic variations and living cultures, a new sustainable cosmopolitics of resources would go beyond global geopolitics and national standards.

Energy is Everywhere and Nowhere

Forrest Meggers, Dorit Aviv, Andrew Cruse, Kipp Bradford, Salmaan Craig, Kiel Moe, Marcel Brülisauer

Do We Dream Under the Same Sky

Nikolaus Hirsch, Michel Müller with Rirkrit Tiravanija

The Anthropocene Style

Philippe Rahm architectes

Invasive Regeneration

Raad Studio, Sun Portal

Four Ecology Commons: Earth

Earth is a complex totality that incorporates landscape, topography, food, and the bioactive layers of the soil. Earth is also related to carbon footprint; establishing equivalences between land-measuring units and their capacity to produce sustainable energy; absorbing carbon within hydrological cycles. Transferring Surface Energy Budgets from geophysics and microclimatology to architecture can account for the relationship between hydrology, energy and airflow. Biotechnologies and green building envelopes can be incorporated into sensitive building design as an integral part of the earth’s surface, an intrinsic component of an imminent urban cosmology. 

Beyond Mining - Urban Growth

Dirk E. Hebel, Philippe Block


JYGG(Jonghyun Baek, Jaehyeog Choi, Daehee Kim), ILSONG ERT., CO., LTD(Yongkyu Kim)

Thermal Mass

Stoss Landscape Urbanism (Elaine Stokes, Katherine Harvey, Amy Whitesides, Chris Reed)

Plug-In Ecology

Terreform ONE, Mitchell Joachim, DJ Spooky

Seoul Agro-City in 2050

Turenscape (Kongjian Yu, Stanley Lung)

Five Technology Commons: Making

The late-capitalist city is characterized, in the name of economic efficiency, by the exile of production from the urban core. Taken over by financial services and consumption, securitized through residential markets, the city loses its creative energy and becomes a mechanism of inequality. Urban policies that take a longer, sustainable approach to the economy and society support the maintenance and evolution of manufacturing ecologies in the city. The emergence of new fabrication technologies further encourages high value production in the urban cores. The impact of these technologies, new distribution systems, and the changing needs of the market signal the re-invigoration of production in the city; a reconstitution into an urban common of the homo faber.

Strange Weather

Ibañez Kim (Mariana Ibañez, Simon Kim)

Cyclopean Cannibalism

Matter Design (Brandon Clifford, Wes McGee), Quarra Stone (Jim Durham)

Adaptive Assembly

Greyshed (Ryan Johns), Jeffrey Anderson


Sine Lindholm, Mads-Ulrik Husum

Five Technology Commons: Moving

Moving is much more than an instrumental process of reaching a certain destination, potentially the most socially interactive of the commons. Hence, the walking city is the healthy city. It is an energy-intensive activity, accounting for a large percentage of overall carbon emissions. Electromobility, sharing schemes for unipersonal or logistic vehicles, devices with cognitive and learning capacities are now spreading worldwide, anticipating decentralized urban transport infrastructures with a minimal carbon footprint, new forms of social and spatial organizations, and new kinds of productive functions within the city. 

The Logistical City

Clare Lyster

Architectures of Fulfillment

Jesse LeCavalier

Moving Parts

Philipp Rode

The Dabbawala

Rahul Mehrotra, Michael Jen

Driver Less Vision

Urtzi Grau, Guillermo Fernández-Abascal, Daniel Perlin

Five Technology Commons: Communicating

The de-territorialization of what were previously separate domains of domesticity, work, and leisure is radically changing urban culture and politics. This process is necessarily intertwined with the emergence of social media, creating a powerful commons within the urban realm. Together, the protocols of on-line and off-line communication and sociability are changing. The possibility of connecting domestic control mechanisms with smartphones further reshape the way in which we relate to hybridized spaces that incorporate work, domesticity, and publicity, inevitably transforming the structures of governance.

Transurban Love

Andres Jaque (Office for Political Innovation), Miguel Mesa

The City of Social Media

Beatriz Colomina

An Architecture for Outcomes

Dark Matter Laboratories (Indy Johar)

Gig Faces, Gig Spaces

Pablo Garcia

Five Technology Commons: Sensing

The proliferation of sensors in the environment is a defining fact of the imminent urban milieu. Interconnected sensors create a new commons, a ubiquitous, global sensorium that obliterates the distinction of nature and artifice, whose ramifications in the urban sphere are just being explored. Personal environmental sensors, connected to smartphones, will be able to distribute instant remote sensing to urban populations, enabling the constant flow of information on the urban environment while at the same time radicalizing issues of privacy, access, and control. They will simultaneously react to and change the urban pattern, generating an unprecedented environmental consciousness.

Autonomous Architectural Robots

Axel Kilian


Jason Kelly Johnson, Nataly Gattegno (Future Cities Lab, San Francisco)

Control Syntax Songdo

Mark Wasiuta, Farzin Lotfi-Jam with Jean Im

SmellScape Seoul 2017

Sissel Tolaas

Twin Mirror

The Living

Five Technology Commons: Recycling

The collection, sorting, and recycling of urban waste and biosolids have become a major challenge for all cities. With an increasing rate of preservation and retrofitting of existing urban infrastructures, the physical structure of the city itself is now a subject of recycling activities. As landfills and CO2 emissions influence the processing of waste, the management of waste becomes the equivalent of the management of land. With regional and transcontinental systems of treating refuse, it has gained geopolitical and cultural dimensions. Regeneration and recycling thus engages citizens in their identification with the city and world in which they live

Three Ordinary Funerals

Common Accounts (Igor Bragado, Miles Gertler) with Jihoi Lee

Trash Peaks

DESIGN EARTH (Rania Ghosn, El Hadi Jazairy, Reid Fellenbaum, Monica Hutton, Elizabeth Savrann, Hsin-Han (Victor) Lee, Rawan Al-Saffar)

States of Disassembly

Lateral Office (Lola Sheppard, Mason White, Brandon Bergem, Jason McMillan, Kearon Roy Taylor, Genevieve Simms)

A Back-to-the-City Movement

Sarah Mineko Ichioka

Computational Hug in Digital Fabrication

Yusuke Obuchi with Deborah Lopez and Hadin Charbel