Masters Thesis Abstract + Film Preview

Below is the abstract and film preview from my masters thesis. I will try to put a few dozen interviews online soon with links to films that I am developing that analyze variations in Berlin's collective housing: between privately owned (Baugruppen), demands for resocialization (Kotti & Co), and commons models of cooperative duel ownership (Mietshäuser Syndikat). 

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Towards a conceptualization of critical urban praxis (theory/proposition/physical activity) as a strategy of architectural commoning analyzed through the Baugruppe and Mietshäuser Syndikat in Berlin

This project develops a critique of architecture and suggests that local architectural strategies can forge alliances with social movements to produce material critique of society. First, the critique of architecture can reveal contradictions in how we conceptualize architecture in order to suggest a balance between critical proximity and critical distance – the actor-network assemblage and the forces of planetary urbanization. Second, I ask specific questions regarding new collective housing strategies in Berlin, whether material form or economic contracts adequately accommodate various visions of a collective society. Third, I will extrapolate upon a critical urban praxis, which identifies three parts: (1) theory/research, (2) propositions/models, and (3) physical activity/embodied action, each of which must retain the three fundamentals of critical theory (1) reflexivity, (2) critique of instrumental reason, (3) illuminate pathways from the actual to the possible. Fourth, the project is then localized in Berlin by analyzing the cycles of history, divided city, restructuring of the post-1989 economy and scales of neoliberal urbanization. The state has rolled back state programs, such as social housing, while rolling out new incentives for private housing (such as giving tax refunds for Baugruppen projects). Fifth, the comparison between Baugruppe and Mietshäuser Syndikat illustrates similarities in material form, and differences in ownership: the Baugruppe have private individual and the Mietshäuser Syndikat have dual ownership. The positive narrative inaccurately deceives the professional architecture community and the broader public of the community value of new social architectural models, while tenant resistance continues and housing is needed for those without capital. 

Film preview:


  1. Kenton, the preview is already very interesting and I'm looking forward to take a look at your thesis. This kind of ethnographic work into the politics of Architecture is rare to find. Either you see eloquent discourses that are not backed up by practical activitism or neutral accounts that only take a look at the policy level where the big politics happens. Your choice to look at both social movements and professional architects seems to emphasize the local accountabilities of each project. I'm very curious to see your case studies on housing projects. Hope this also appears on your footage.

    By the way, I'm interested in your work because I'm doing a PhD in participatory design in healthcare architecture, but I'm finding terribly difficult to justify a politically engaged approach to it. Your work inspires me in some sense. Keep up!

  2. You are my inspiration! thank you for the post. I'm learning from you more then from my PhD supervisor. :)

  3. on which text of Latour do you base your theoretical ideas? reassembling the social, o any others?

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  5. Sorry for the massive delay in response. I've begun to post the beginnings of my thesis in the following blog posts. Cheers. -KC