California College of the Arts

California College of the Arts

Preparing students for creative practice where material/formal experimentation meets social engagement/technological innovation

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The Open Workshop and CCA’s Urban Works Agency directors, Neeraj Bhatia & Antje Steinmuller, will exhibit “Commoning Domestic Space” at the 2020 Venice Architecture Biennale.

By Keith Krumwiede
Mar 4, '20 8:27 PM EST
Plan Perspective, Overall Installation View. (Image courtesy of The Open Workshop)
Plan Perspective, Overall Installation View. (Image courtesy of The Open Workshop)

CCA Associate Professor Neeraj Bhatia’s office The Open Workshop is one of a select number of international practices invited to participate in the 2020 Venice Architecture Biennale, the most important venue in the world for the exchange of architectural ideas. The Open Workshop will collaborate with Antje Steinmuller, also an Associate Professor in the Architecture Division at California College of the Arts, to exhibit “Commoning Domestic Space” in the As New Households topic area in the famed Arsenale complex. Curated by Hashim Sarkis, the Biennale will focus on the theme: “How will we live together?”. In announcing the theme, Sarkis stated, “We need a new spatial contract. In the context of widening political divides and growing economic inequalities, we call on architects to imagine spaces in which we can generously live together... In effect, the Biennale Architettura 2020 asserts the vital role of the architect as both cordial convener and custodian of the spatial contract.” Bhatia and Steinmuller’s research, conducted in their role as directors of the Architecture Division’s Urban Works Agency research lab, focuses on a series of collective housing case studies that explore the ways in which people have constructed, shared, and governed domestic commons. These case studies will be presented alongside a collection of The Open Workshop’s speculative collective housing projects in an exhibition designed by the firm.

“Commoning Domestic Space” is an in-depth examination of the architecture and social structures of collective living. As the urban housing crisis deepens in cities around the world, city dwellers are starved for affordable models of housing that support today’s increasingly varied, and frequently post-familial, modes of living. In response to both economic pressures and social desires, housing types centered on the commoning of domestic space—communes, co-living, cooperatives—are growing in popularity. But living together is not easy; it requires an architecture that carefully balances personal and shared space, individual identity and mutual interdependence. 

“Commoning Domestic Space” explores the challenges and opportunities of collective living through case studies (both built and projected, designed and informal) as well as speculative design proposals. The exhibition, comprised of both models and drawings, unpacks three key elements of successful collective dwellings: (1) Hardware, which refers to the architecture proper of the dwelling as it structures and supports relationships among residents; (2) Software, which examines how residents identify with and claim domestic space; and (3) Orgware, which focuses on the organizational frameworks and governance systems that make collective life possible. In addressing the building, maintenance, and governance of a domestic commons, the research and projects collected in “Commoning Domestic Space” offer fresh insights into the ways in which we can live together.

Participation in the 17th International Architecture Exhibition is led by The Open Workshop and supported in part the Office of the Provost, California College of the Arts; CCA Architecture Division; CCA Urban Works Agency with the San Francisco Planning Department; George F. Jewett III; Kimberly & Simon Blattner; and Stephen Engblom & Lance Relicke