Domestic Commons are the spaces between our homes. They are the spaces that form the immediate thresholds between our private, interior lives and the city beyond. Not quite private, but also not public. Domestic Commons are manifest as well-functioning spaces that reinforce a sense of trust and collective action between those those share them, but elsewhere are revealed as over-securitised, ungenerous and neglected spaces that foster isolation, ill-health, and violence.
The Covid-19 pandemic has radically changed many people's working and lifestyle habits. Ongoing confinement, normalisation of working from home and restrictions on leisure, cultural and social spaces has placed a renewed focus on the immediate spaces around our homes. Streets, gardens, balconies and front doorsteps have become crucial platforms in exchanging what was once shared in the office, pub or classroom. The Domestic Commons has been celebrated in collective signs of gratitude through nightly clapping, or re-invented through pavement pubs, front garden picnics and doorstep sunbathing, but has also been criticised for its chronic lack of basic outdoor amenities, ineffective processes of maintenance, and the persistent presence of cars.
The city’s edges have become firmer, with its limits redefined by their proximity to our front doors. This draws a new territory where we might search for and perhaps redefine our social and cultural needs. We see the latent blurred edges of a city’s villages and neighbourhoods come into sharper relief, reverting centuries of centralisation with an unfamiliar archipelagic urbanism. Centre and periphery have become distorted and reconfigured, as virtual working has fragmented the city into infinite bedroom offices that are indiscriminate of location. The power and symbolism of civic institutions and their public realms have imploded into our screens and into our Domestic Commons.
What work we do, and where we can do it, has thrown a harsh light on the spatial implications of social inequalities. Where we live, and how close this is to our physical and social needs, has thrown into question what amenities we need close at hand. The shape and size of the Domestic Commons that we find ourselves discovering, nurturing, or appropriating, might be a space where these new realities can find relevance, meaning, and a shared common ground.
As the vital quality of these spaces, and lack of them, comes into sharp relief against the backdrop of Covid-19, Medium see an opportunity to turn a critical gaze towards both the successes and challenges of our Domestic Commons. The research will draw on a series of discussions with architects, thinkers, and policy advisers to build-up a series of videos, text and images. The project is a collaboration with the 2020 Tbilisi Architecture Biennial and funded by Creative Europe.