urban★react is a collective from Bern, Athens and Cork and includes independent artists, architects, researchers, activists, workers and scientists. Although we come from different fields, we all share a common interest in finding alternative models of teaching, application and processes in architecture with the objective of enabling people gain control of their own living environments. Through processes of Collective Design, Activism and Research our project aims to address contemporary sociopolitical issues, and through urban projects and practice research develop new critiques and pedagogical concepts that focus on architecture as a tool of social integration and social involvement.
urban★react is currently working with the inhabitants of a 1930s refugee housing block in the Athenian district of Kaisariani to renovate their building. The housing block was originally designed by Bauhaus trained city architects and completed in 1936 to house refugee families that were part of the massive population exchange between Turkey and Greece after the Greco-Turkish War of 1919–1922 also known as the Asia Minor Catastrophe. The original design included communal areas such as a central courtyard for the inhabitants as well as laundry areas. These areas have since lost their original use and the courtyard is now used by local businesses as an unofficial car park.
urban★react 's goals are:
/ TO COLLECTIVELY FIX THE STRUCTURE OF THE BUILDING / TO RENOVATE THE INHABITED APARTMENTS AND RECLAIM THE CENTRAL COURTYARD FOR INHABITANT'S USE / TO RENOVATE UNOCCUPIED APARTMENTS FOR HOMELESS REFUGEE AND GREEK FAMILIES / TO INTRODUCE A CO-OWNERSHIP SCHEME THAT WILL PROTECT THE HOUSING BLOCK FROM FUTURE GENTRIFICATION AND CO-OPTION /
Additionally, the collective inhabitants of the block will have a ground floor apartment as a space for holding weekly Collective Assemblies where they autonomously decide on the day-to-day running of their living environment. This is initiated through an emergent process of Collective Design and is independently funded.
In the summer of 2016, we made the first step with Swiss and Greek students of architecture, young Greek architects, as well as with the inhabitants of the settlement and collectively developed proposals for the use of the common courtyard and outdoor spaces. By first developing questionnaires and interviews, with the inhabitants, that influenced the designs, real results were born and presented by students in the Kaisariani Community House.
MAY - OCTOBER
In 2017 following points were developed: / questionnaire developed for inhabitants / interviews with residents and urban★react (on video) / clarifications with the public office / interviews with individual residents (in writing) / situation analysis / determined vacancy and clarified ownership / finding owners of unoccupied apartments / fieldwork in the courtyard and setting up Van as an info point for inhabitants / residents gatherings and discussions / further clarifications with the public office / investigating and engaging with refugee occupations and homeless people from the neighbourhood /
september - OCTOBER
Art Architecture Activism
The Kaisariani project of urban★react, is presented as an ethnographic arts project in the exhibition, – a collaborative curatorial model that critiques institutional oppressive structures and foregrounds alternative human-value led social projects. The exhibition is held in the unoccupied Bageion Hotel in central Athens and also presents the students' work from 2016, and an engaged workshop with the squat Notara 26 in Exarchia.
phases of the project:
/ Design 2016 - 2019 with the Housing Block / in progress
/ Film for crowdfunding and crowdfunding itself 2019 - 2020 / in progress
/ implementation planning / Collective implementation 2019 - 2022
4.ACQUIRE VACANCY FOR FAMILIES IN NEED
/ from 2019 / in progress
14 - 26 OCTOBER
KAISARIANI: A CULTURALLY EMBODIED MUSEUM
The arts project, Kaisariani: A Culturally Embodied Museum, ethnographically frames the Urban React social housing project as a living museum. Here the notion of ‘museum’ is critically framed within interwoven socio-cultural narratives and focuses on the inter-relationship between the multiple biographies of the building(i) as a sociocultural artefact and the biographies of those inhabiting the building at any one time. The exhibit presents a number of video interviews we conducted of the older generation of Greeks that have been living in the block since arriving with their parents as refugees of the Asia Minor Catastrophe.
These personal accounts are then put into play with an interview of the founding member from Urban React, Dimitri Panayotopoulos, imparting personal and political motivations for initiating the renovation project. bullet and cannon holes. The idea is that this collection of interviews is built up during the timeframe of the Urban React project and can potentially be installed in the Collective Assembly space as an archive or museum of the building. Thus the notion and preservation of this archive is dependent upon how the inhabitants value their own agency and relationship with their communal living environment, at any one time.
( watch on youtube )
This body of work functions both as an ongoing art project/exhibit, presenting the housing project from a human perspective, as well as fulfilling a social role as a future archive of the building and its inhabitants. This transitioning between art and the social is also evident in an interlinked art work of large architectural drawings of the Kaisariani housing project produced through a Kaisariani Summer School in 2016, organised by Urban React. This involved a participatory design project with some of the inhabitants, Urban React and architecture students from BFH Architecture School in Bern. They worked together in realising future constructions and uses of the ‘reclaimed’ central courtyard. The work intends to portray an alternative approach to Collective Design and renovation where architecture is merely one of many social commoning practices involved.
(i) The Kaisariani housing block has survived very difficult and conflictual events in recent Greek history. Kaisariani was known as a Left wing communist stronghold throughout WWII and the Greek Civil war and was particularly targeted by the British Army and Greek Nazi sympathisers -in fact the coalition of Greek Nazi occupation collaborators and the main political parties of the right and the centre that were affiliated with Great Britain and the Greek ruling class interests -who set out to defeat communist rule in Athens. As the housing block was the tallest building at the time it was both used by the Greek Resistance - People’s Liberation Army or ELAS and targeted by the British. One facade is still riddled with bullet and cannon holes.
CORK CONVERSATIONS: 'A CITY AND CULTURE LAB'
Exploring Future City Making, With Christoph Lindner – Urban and Cultural Theorist Professor and Dean of The College of Design at the University of Oregon, USA; Dr Eve Olney – Ethnographer and Artist; Helen Carey – Director of Firestation Artists Studio, Dublin.
ART ARCHITECTURE ACTIVISM: CONCRETE OUTCOMES IN SOCIAL ART PRACTICE
As part of The Limerick Spring Festival of Politics and Ideas Event, 'Art in Uncertain Times'
curated by Kate O'Shea
DO YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN? On understanding what we understand about the local
Panel: Dr. Eve Olney - Ethnographer & Artist, Dr. Ríonach Ní Néill - Curator/Choreographer, Irene Murphy – Visual Artist, Co-Director and Founder Member of The Guesthouse Project and the Cork Artist Collective.
Chair: Ruairí O’Donovan; Curated by: Eszter Némethi
29. OCTOBER - 04 NOVEMBER
KAISARIANI: 'A CULTURAL LIVING MUSEUM'
(Ethnographic Filmwork and Printwork in collaboration with Kate O’Shea) Urban React at the Grosse Halle, Bern
A CRITICAL CRISIS IN ARCHITECTURE
Architekturforum, Bern, Switzerland. https://www.architekturforum-bern.ch/de/archiv/2018/
COMMON GROUND TALK & LAUNCH: 'COLLECTIVE DESIGN IN URBAN REACT AND THE LIVING COMMONS Quarter Block Party, Cork.
RADICAL RETHINK: 'CONVERSATIONS IN CONTEMPORARY ART PRACTICE
Eve Olney and Aodán McCardle, Regional Arts Centre, Letterkenny.
2 - 12 MAY
URBAN REACT: COLLECTIVE DESIGN HOUSING PROJECT
Social Commons Exhibition, Liberty Hall, Dublin
28 - 30. AUGUST
COLLECTIVE DESIGN AS A SOCIAL THEORY OF LEARNING, CONVIVIAL KNOWLEDGES: COMMONING AND INTERDEPENDENCE
Royal Geographic Society Annual International Conference , London.
25 - 27. OCTOBER
CULTIVATING A CULTURE OF RESISTANCE THROUGH COLLECTIVE DESIGN
TRISE CONFERENCE, Athens, Greece. Transnational Institute of Social Ecology