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Cultures, Communities and Design

Alternative housing models in action. Public-community ecosystems for territorial and building stock regeneration for living
S. Cafora
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm


The polarization of the territories and the consequent creation of unprecedented socio-economic inequalities both in the urban vibrant centers and in the fringes, produced a global shrinking of citizenship rights raising two intertwined problems. The need to re-signify and to restore value to the building stock in the fragile and peripheral territories and the primary need to widen the housing right in the urban centers. Looking for alternatives able to answers to mature society needs, we are experiencing a deep demographical shift and a change of life paradigms. The article aims to analyze new ecosystems emerging from public-private actions in the regeneration of the territories and their building stock for alternative housing production. Here, the private actor is collective and cooperative and it is triggered by active communities committed to regaining rights; while the public actor is aware of its obsolete dynamics and the need for transitions such that enters into a transformative circuit of mutual learning with communities to update its tools. The article proposes housing as a transdisciplinary field of study and communities as a key ingredient in the production of alternative housing models able to foster translocal mobilization of commons goods, mutual learning and DIY self-organization. A rediscovery of the small scale and of bottom-up actions that work locally towards macro-objectives such as those dictated by the 2030 Agenda for Housing Right: to provide everyone with adequate, safe and accessible housing. The research proposes a comparative method of analysis -housing comparative method-, introducing and comparing two emblematic European cases, both inspired by the Canadian housing cooperatives: the Sants neighborhood in Barcelona with La Borda housing cooperative and the housing policies of the city of Zurich with the Kraftwerk cooperatives. How effective are the models proposed by communities in synergy with the public sector? What is the potential of active communities in the production of simpoietic models and new settlement possibilities for a synergistic relationship between urban, territorial and social ecosystems, both in marginal areas and in urban centers?


Silvia Cafora, architect, PhD student at the Department of Architecture and Design of the Polytechnic of Turin. She carries out research activities mainly in the field of community-led housing models and territorial fragilities with a focus on community practices and regenerative access to the building-housing heritage. She graduated in sustainable architecture dealing with informal spaces and the right to the city, at the Politecnico di Milano and the Escuela de Arquitectura y diseño of Valparaiso in Chile. Researcher at the latter, she studies the architecture and the radical housing processes of Ciudad Abierta. She collaborates with the Radical Housing Journal and Feltrinelli Foundation in Milan.
Visiting lecturer at IUAV university, Fondazione Feltrinelli in Milan, Università Federico II Diarc in Naples, Legambiente, Politecnico of Milan, Venice Biennale 2021 with Endless forms most beautiful project; she is now collaborating with Feltrinelli Foundation at the production of Broken Nature festival 2022 on Alternative housing models.