Common Space

The City as Commons

Stavros Stavrides
With a Foreword by Massimo De Angelis


Activist and architect Stavros Stavrides calls for us to conceive of space-as-commons.

Space is both a product and a prerequisite of social relations, it has the potential to block and encourage certain forms of encounter. In Common Space, activist and architect Stavros Stavrides calls for us to conceive of space-as-commons – first, to think beyond the notions of public and private space, and then to understand common space not only as space that is governed by all and remains open to all, but that explicitly expresses, encourages and exemplifies new forms of social relations and of life in common.

Through a fascinating, global examination of social housing, self-built urban settlements, street trade and art, occupied space, liberated space and graffiti, Stavrides carefully shows how spaces for commoning are created. Moreover, he explores the connections between processes of spatial transformation and the formation of politicised subjects to reveal the hidden emancipatory potential of contemporary, metropolitan life.

Author Bio

Stavros Stavrides is an architect, activist and associate professor at the School of Architecture, National Technical University of Athens, where he teaches courses on social housing design, as well as a postgraduate course on the social meaning and significations of metropolitan experience. His publications on spatial theory include The Symbolic Relation to Space (1990); Advertising and the Meaning of Space (1996); The Texture of Things (with E. Cotsou, 1996); From the City-Screen to the City-Stage (2002, National Book Award); Suspended Spaces of Alterity (2010); and Towards the City of Thresholds (2010).

Table of Contents

  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • Part I: Commoning Space
    • 1. An Urban Archipelago of Enclosures
    • 2. Expanding Commoning: In, Against and Beyond Capitalism?
  • Part II: Inhabited Common Spaces
    • 3. Shared Heterotopias: Learning From the History of a Social Housing Complex in Athens
    • 4. Housing and Urban Commoning
    • 5. Metropolitan Streets as Contested Spaces
    • 6. Occupied Squares, Societies in Movement
  • Part III: Envisaged common spaces
    • 7. Practices of Defacement: Thresholds to Rediscovered Commons 
    • 8. Thought-images and Representations of the City as Commons
    • 9. Representations of Space and Representations of Emancipation
  • Conclusion: Reinventing the City through Commoning


‘Common Space is the first of its kind … an in-depth journey into the concept of common space … relevant to students, academics and practitioners alike.’
Environment and Urbanization

‘Stavrides provides a wonderful guide to how we can make urban space common. He draws from the history of social housing and the successes of contemporary protest movements to formulate an exciting political project.’
Michael Hardt, co-author of Empire; Multitude; and Commonwealth

‘A much-needed breath of fresh air. This is a book for all those interested in moving beyond the politics of enclosure, fear and individualism to a politics of hope, possibility and social inclusion in the contemporary city.’
Sophie Watson, The Open University

‘Stavrides was one of the first to open my eyes to the importance of the urban commons. His writings are exciting, a valuable reference for urban activists around the world. He is right: the city is the place where we can and should truly reinvent the commons.’
Lieven De Cauter, co-editor of Art and Activism in the Age of Globalization

‘Stavrides provides a rich, erudite exploration of this neglected topic and the potential for human emancipation.’
David Bollier, author of Think Like a Commoner

'Stavrides escapes the Eurocentrism that often predominates in the literature on the urban commons … The book will appeal not only to scholars across many disciplines, but also to activists who seek to engage with the significance of urban space for their political action.'
Urban Studies

'A fascinating and path-breaking book, which can inspire activists and theoreticians alike. It enriches the academic bibliography of geography, planning, sociology, cultural studies, social anthropology, political science and more disciplines focusing on the contemporary city.'
City: Analysis of Urban Trends, Culture, Theory, Policy, Action


Publication Date: 15 February 2016
320 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781783603275
Hardback: 9781783603282
eBook ePub: 9781783603305
eBook PDF: 9781783603299
eBook Kindle: 9781783603312

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