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Marjetica and Edi Muka, artistic director, about conceptual similarities between The Common Roof and next Goteborg Biennial, which starts when The Common Roof exhibition / event closes.

Marjetica:

You said that The Common Roof project works well with the focus of the Göteborg biennial =  performative action, construction of narratives and a vision of the future. Correct?

Edi:

Yes. The theme of Goteborg Biennial is PLAY! Recapturing the Radical Imagination, and it has to do with how artists use the agency of play and playfulness to challenge norms and status quo, and how it can link and affect various social movements (as in Occupy case) in formulating the battle for imagination in a world being restructured by neoliberal agenda.

Draft proposal: The Common Roof Project – Housing Citizenship

BACKGROUND

Göteborg residents construct a housing unit in Roda Sten according to their opinions and desires. The prototype unit, based on community values, is composed of distinct spaces and designed to house a number of families who would live and work there. The house is a proposal by residents of Göteborg for a new urban housing unit founded on participation of residents. It is their contribution to reimagine the city they live in, and their proposal towards how they want to live together in fast approaching post-neoliberal era.
Performative actions are important part of the The Common Roof Project – Housing Citizenship:

  • construction of individual spaces in the open space next to Roda Sten;
  • procession of the constructed spaces carried by residents through the streets of Göteborg (citizens are pillars of the city, Procession of Missing Rights)
  • construction/assembling of the new housing unit from individual spaces in Roda Sten;
  • Maker Fairs in the open space next to Roda Sten.

Sweden is currently one of just a few countries in European Union which does not support the construction of what used to be called social housing in post-WW2 era, i.e. construction of residential housing subsidized by the state. This is a frank acknowledgment of the fact that we live in neoliberal era, when politicians cater to housing developers first, and not to the population that voted them – a relationship that questions the meaning of democracy, and puts housing rights to the forefront. The idea of the social state is in dramatic decline at times when cities question their resilience in anticipation of climate change upheavals.

In Sweden, the social housing is the term associated with social state and socialist party, which in the 1970-1980s, anticipating increase of population, initiated the Million Program, i.e. construction of one million dwellings in 10 years. Then, understood as an ideal way of human coexistence aiming to show equality for all, residential areas built in the spirit of modern architecture are in many cases turned today into socially segregated areas attracting the urban poor and are a showcase of social inequality.

Today, Göteborg is considered to be a segregated city (development towards gated communities and enclaves of urban poor). This is a good moment to reimagine and envision urban coexistence founded on residents’ participation.

Questions towards reimagining urban coexistence:
For whom? How many families in one housing unit? What are common spaces? How does it look? What about infrastructure put through by residents – rainwater harvesting (experimental infrastructure, such as nets for capturing water from fog), wind and solar energy. Selling surplus energy to the state? What about vegetable cultivation for food? What is a resilient residential unit? What means self-organization and local empowerment? How self-sustainable can housing units, neighborhoods and cities get? What is a resilient city? Who designs and builds the house?  Do we need architects? What is balance between public and private? Who is dependent on what? Is public space important? What about community spaces? What comes first, city or citizens? Chicken or egg?

Architecture and social architecture:
A stable architecture needs firm foundations. Social architecture needs firm foundations as well.
What are foundations of a housing unit based on community values?

New public-private partnership:
It’s not about social engineering = interventions in pre-given neoliberal model, between government and developers. It’s about envisioning new housing by residents as a proposal to the government to reimagine housing policies.

From extreme individualism towards community values:
Not so long time ago, the communes have been considered a utopian model of co-existence in the city where citizens aspired to live lives of autonomous individuals and where large-scale modernist residential housing was a form that fit well the values of extreme individualism.
Today, the form of small-scale community-based housing units is getting popular, examples: Genossenshaft in Germany, sustainable residential units in cities around Europe such as Kraftwerk1 in Zurich, urban kibbutz in Israel, etc. Living in such housing units reflects the saying: ‘If you know your neighbor, you’ll be fine.’

Discursive program:
Lectures and Maker Fairs. It’s about exchanging knowledge, goods and services.

Makers Fairs:
Location: Open space next to Roda Sten.
Workshops are organized in the form of fairs. Open-call for participants.  Albin told us that Göteborg brands itself as ‘fair city’. Do you think that residents can be attracted to participate in Maker Fairs – an example http://makerfaire.com/be-a-maker.html ?
The Food Fair, The Resources Fair, The Space Fair. Action and reflection.

Lectures:
Location: Inside Roda Sten, or in the cafe outside Roda Sten.
Organize meetings or lectures about urban rights, occupation, housing rights, how to build a common house, land right and so on. Lectures are held by activists or experts who can help people to organize and solve the problem of their missing housing rights (we are talking about rights, common rights and no longer state rights and social state).
Besides it, we can set a website/blog in which we will post the announcements of the lectures, as well as we can use the website/blog as a platform to invite residents to make their questions to the experts or to organize meetings themselves etc.

Comments by Lucia Babina:

We need instead to rediscover values together. So I would propose, as in the article about food sovereignty: The Common Roof Project – Housing Citizenship or something similar, in order to stress the fact that we are talking about rights, common rights and no longer state rights. I like the idea of the building performance and It would be wonderful to think about a procession, so residents build the house and carry it around in the city, like a ritual and the last stop is Roda Sten (the temple where the house will stay and everybody will go to see it). It is a way to expose the house as a missing right. So there will be the procession as an ultimate exposure of the naked king but people will also have the chance to visit the house in Roda Sten, as the metaphor of a missing right. Concerning fairs, I would slightly change the idea of the fairs and I would instead organize some meetings or lectures in Roda Sten (inside or close to the house) about urban rights, occupation, how to build a common house, land right and so on. Lectures are held by activists or experts who can help people to organize and solve the problem of their missing housing rights. Besides it, we can set a website/blog in which we will post the announcements of the lectures, as well as we can use the website/blog as a platform to invite residents to make their questions to the experts or to organize meetings themselves etc.

Comments by Albin Andersson:

I still like the idea and performance of having the material inside Röda Sten, then carry them out to build, and later carry the modules back into Röda Sten to compile it into a singel unit. I think the results can be very unexpected and interesting. I read the answers from Lucia and think she’s right when it comes to the term “social housing”. This is not what I thought of when I heard the term, but I might not be the right generation. “Housing citizenship” is good, but maybe the word citizenship could be thought about again, since it will exclude people without citizenships. About the fairs, I’m not sure I really got the idea about it would practically work, but I somehow like it more than ordinary lectures since, as you say, it makes it easier for two-way-comunication and not leaving one part passive. But maybe the building of the house is exercising this enough? Just some thoughts.

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