Spaces of Solidarity

'Spaces of Solidarity' is a project based seminar aimed at examining community-driven spaces and spatial processes that pool and share resources to build social cohesion in times of crisis or absence of government, at a variety of scales, places, and contexts.

‘Spaces of Solidarity’ attempts to examine environments of community formation and open up a dialogue on the agency of design in enacting and facilitating actions of solidarity, cohesion, and social justice. In the class we will analyze current manifestations of solidarity in the built environment and potentials to develop and enact urban commons in a variety of contexts and at different scales. It will emphasize the interconnectedness between the socio-economical, psychological, spatial and cultural aspects that form spaces and places of solidarity.

As a notion, solidarity involves all spatial scales of human communities: one can have solidarity with his or her peers, a society can demonstrate collective solidarity towards those in need and states can show solidarity towards each other or the natural world. The production of solidarity often involves collaborative processes between spatial designers, communities and policy makers, and is thus an inherently trans- and cross-disciplinary research domain. A thorough examination of different examples will help us understand what solidarity is and where it takes place.

Solidarity is as much a product of imagination as it is of pragmatism. One must be able to imagine forms of human coexistence where everybody’s needs are met as an almost utopian vision of society. But beyond imagination, we must also be able to produce these spaces and coordinate actual processes for distributing resources and creating access to services in order to see these needs met. Producing ‘Spaces of Solidarity’ is an inherently collaborative process, as practicing solidarity implies a commitment to collective well-being. During the course, we will examine new forms and new spaces of solidarity on two spatial scales.

The first part will look at solidarity from a global perspective. It will document supranational structures of care, existing and imaginary policies, and explore ideas of ‘deep ecology’ and environmental solidarity.

The second part will focus on cities and look at the micro-spaces where solidarity is actively practiced. This research will attempt a systematic exploration of emergent acts of solidarity and the spaces they form. Initiatives and spaces of solidarity will be examined in relation to: 1) Displacement and border crossings; 2) Poverty and income inequality, and 3) Resistance and protest. Throughout the course, students will develop a theoretical understanding using individual case studies and comparative analysis in these fields. The main goal of this course is to explore the built environment from the perspective of solidarity: accumulating showcases, sharing methods and forming design tools to make visible and strengthen the experience of solidarity, both on the level of local communities and on the level of public awareness and public policy. Students will analyze cases that they are familiar with and places they know to build a body of knowledge on existing models of solidarity and develop recommendations to help local municipalities in initiating, facilitating and supporting spaces of solidarity within their communities.

The course will meet for three hours every week. Generally, the first hour will be dedicated to a lecture by the instructor(s) and/or guest and a discussion. The second two hours will be dedicated to analysis and proposed interventions generated by students based on the assignments.The students work will be collected, edited and published as an online publication at the end of the semester.