Designing the Urban Commons

Designing the Urban Commons is an ideas competition calling for new ways to stimulate the city’s public and collective life. The competition will be launched on 25th March by Theatrum Mundi, a network of artists, performers and urbanists based at LSE Cities.

The range of activities permitted in urban spaces is becoming increasingly narrow. Many streets and squares are now managed by private owners and those held by the state are sanitised and policed to protect property values. Commoning, the collective ownership and management of resources, is currently being reimagined across social, political and economic debates as a response to this challenge facing all cities today. How can space be created for people to come together in public to produce and use the city’s resources outside of market demands? With Britain’s rich history of common rights, London is the perfect place to test commons out as a vital approach to urban design.

The competition brief will ask for existing land, architecture, or infrastructures in neighbourhoods across London to be re-imagined as common spaces, or for new urban commons to be carved out in the city or online. Commons are not static pieces of architecture. We are seeking designs through which the social act of commoning could take shape, by enabling citizens to co-produce urban resources from culture & knowledge to housing, energy or democratic processes.

Entry to the competition is free, online and open to anyone, enabling diverse teams to work together. Architects, community organisers, performers, artists and activists for example, and even ordinary citizens, are all encouraged to take part.

Eight winning proposals will be chosen by a jury including Theatrum Mundi founder Richard Sennett, architect Sarah Wigglesworth and curator Francesca Ferguson, with a further two winners selected by an online public vote. These ten will be awarded £300 prize money and, in June, will have their designs exhibited at LSE during the London Festival of Architecture. The competition will open on the 25th March with a panel discussion at LSE on the practice of urban commoning, including architects Public Works Group. At a workshop at the V&A’s Friday Late on 26th June competition winners will also be given the opportunity to present their vision to the public, continuing the discussion about common futures for urban space in a live setting.

This competition follows the success of Theatrum Mundi’s 2014 competition Designing for Free Speech, which re-imagined spaces in NYC as places for free speech, assembly and creative expression.