How to Live Together. Fourier and the Future of Collective Housing (Arles Seminar Abroad)

This elective seminar will investigate the history and theory of collective housing in Europe.  Seminal texts will enable students to theorize concepts of domesticity, private and communal space, and novel forms of cohabitation. The seminar will focus specifically on historic and contemporary projects in France. Students will visit many of these sites and meet with experts and architects to discuss the axiomatics of communal dwelling. How have the ideas of privacy, of collectivity and communal living, changed over time? What could a ‘unit’ be? A ‘public space’? What could ‘housing’ mean in a time where digitalization and robotization, remote work, and online retail, are radically reshaping the way we work, live, consume, spend time, and use public and private space? How can this new reality align with the normative framework of our current dwelling typologies, particularly in relation to questions of race, gender, and diversity, among other considerations?

The seminar will discuss novel forms of cohabitation in the broader context of the effects that digitalization has on our cities and on how we produce and use spaces. In a time where office towers and malls might become the new ruins of our time, the seminar investigates what activities will shape the future city and our form of dwelling.

Among other projects, students will visit Renée Gailhoustet’s and Jean Renaudie’s collective housing complexes in Ivry-sur-Seine, as well as the Familistère in Guise. Both owe much to the French social theorist and utopian thinker Charles Fourier (1772 – 1837) who wanted to reconstruct society through a new typology of collective buildings. His ‘Phalansteries’ were designed to house around 1,600 people working together for mutual benefit in mostly agricultural communities. In Fourier’s vision, the whole country would be reorganized by a network of interconnected Phalansteries. Jobs would be assigned based on interests and desires, unpleasant work would either be automated or receive higher pay. A precursor to modern network theories, Phalansteries would communicate via signal towers about needed products or workforce.

This seminar will expose students to a broad range of strategies and experiments that have led to novel forms of social housing and changed the course of domestic architecture. Students will discuss these questions with thinkers and activists who have developed new practices that will affect how collective housing and communal space could be produced in the future.

In Urban Design, this course may fulfil an Urban Systems distribution requirement; confirm directly with your program director.

This seminar is offered as part of the GSD Studio Abroad program in Arles, France. Enrolled students will be selected through an early lottery process.