Urban Futures – Cultural Pasts Conference


Governing the Ecosystem Commons


A track led by the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya

Track Call

The urban commons is a well established concept among scholars who advocate for sustainable and equitable access to wealth in cities. It is premised on the idea that the collective ownership and management of resources can be a solution to many of the challenges that our living environments face today. “Commoning the city” thus involves, te devising of alternatives to traditional top-down and centralized approaches to planning that have led to the current socio-environmental crisis.

However, it has also been argued that bottom-up initiatives might not suffice in dealing with complex and long-term challenges. For example, Srnicek, and Williams argue that they are limited by structural conditions such as ‘dysfunctional horizontality’ in decision making and the need for the performative translation of actions in the short term. This view advocates for more durable and systemic change in which individuals engage in ‘constitutional choice actions’ in relation to urban resources. For theorist such as Schlager and Ostrom ‘constitutional rights’ must be enacted across spheres, not just in questions of land use but also in relation to issues such as water, air quality and clean energy to name but a few.

Within this context, Governing the Ecosystem Commons calls for varied reflections on the relationship between bottom-up initiatives on the one hand, and systemic and long-term urban planning strategies on the other. Contributions on innovative urban planning codes and regulations committed to climate change adaptation are especially welcome.

Example projects conducted here in Barcelona in relation to this include: i) ‘NATURBAN’ – a collective effort in developing strategies and proposals that may enable the naturalization of Barcelona, ii) ‘the Metropolitan Strategic Plan for Barcelona’ in which the biophysical matrix, housing and metabolic flows are central points of focus, and iii) ‘ReSide’, a network of cooperative teaching and research engaging seven universities across Europe advocating for the regeneration of delerict residential areas. Images 1-3

Key Words:

Governance, Ecosystem Commons, Spatial Planning.

Key People:

Adolf Sotoca is Professor Serra Hunter and teaches urbanism at UPC_BarcelonaTECH and at CTU Krakow. He has been Chair Professor at Luleå Tekniska Universität (Sweden), Visiting Associate Professor at the University of Illinois (USA) and a frequent guest professor and speaker globally. He leads studios, theory courses and seminars focused on the materiality of the city across a wide range of scales. He has been lead researcher on several internationally funded programs and the author of a vast number of publications. Professor Sotoca is a founding partner of CSArquitectes, an acknowledged Barcelona-based firm. He is particularly interested in the spatial dimension of the urban ecosystem commons and how that is coded in governance and city planning.


Part of the Urban Futures – Cultural Pasts Conference


This track develops themes central to the Master’s degree in Sustainable Intervention in the Built Environment. MISMeC at UPC.

The programme is taught in two tracks. In English, open to students from all over the world, with a language competence equivalent to European B2. In Spanish/Catalan, as part of the double degree with the Master’s programme in Architecture, MArq,


Programme Rationale:

The city plays a fundamental role in a social strategy of progressive transformation of the social metabolism towards a carbon-neutral model to maintain or restore the productive capacity and ecosystem services of the territory and natural systems. On the one hand, because the city is a place of high-density material flows that define the social metabolism. On the other hand, because the city is a place of strong social perception to express public mechanisms of political participation. These two conditions make the city a key place of intervention to implement and develop social strategies for transforming the social metabolism towards sustainability.

The one-year MSc programme focuses on the city in order to identify, criticise and diagnose its metabolism – with specific tools for conceptualisation, measurement, and evaluation – and to propose sustainable transformative interventions. This process involves recognising material flows, spaces on which they act and conditions in which they operate to generate a critical discourse. The aim is to develop the capacity to intervene strategically in the city, to propose new socially acceptable models through responsible intervention in its spaces. This work is specific to the field of architecture, at the different scales of buildings, neighbourhoods, urban spaces, and territorial relations.

The programme focuses on a cutting-edge area of specialisation for disciplines dealing with the built environment in order to strategically transform the vision of professionals and guide future researchers in transforming our society towards sustainability. The MSc is practice-oriented and addresses real projects in urban contexts, through processes of social metabolism diagnosis and carbon-neutral interventions for climate change.


Urban Futures – Cultural Pasts Conference

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Other Tracks:  Community Design & User Autonomy >>  Governing the Ecosystem Commons >>  |  Material Circularity >>  |  Urban Intervention – Reducing Vulnerability >> | Sustainable Lifestyles – Impact & Reduction Scenarios >>

Main image: Adolf Sotoca