Cities, radical urbanism, squatting, social centres

Cities, radical urbanism, squatting, social centres:

Anarchy, squatting, autonoumous spaces, ecological spaces and systems, social centres, community gardens……..

Ireland > London > Copenhagen > Toulouse > Pyranees > Bilbao > …….. > Venice

In a weeks time the architectural and urban community will gather in Venice to discuss, explore, display ideas about “Cities, Architecture and Society”, this will all happen at the 10th International Architecture Biennale Exhibition

Last year in Venice, the Art community gathered there for the art Biennale. As part of this Sarah Pierce participated as part of the Irish team and her “work” invovled the opening of a previously closed off garden, the “monks garden”, into which Irish zines from the forgotten zine collection were placed and discussions were raised about space, art, activism, anarchy, eco living, DIY culture. she also commented about some radical action happening in Dublin about green space and social spaces, the zines were housed in a punk warehouse and are now in Dublin´s new social centre; seomra spraoi (room of fun, in gaelic)

In London there is presently a very important exhibition; Future city: experiment and utopia in architecture 1956 – 2006

It looks at radical thinking and action in relation to architecture, urbbanism, city living, housing, communities, identity, life…

This exhibition also had many important discussions about above ideas from some of worlds “leading speakers”, unfortunately this exhibition was 8 UK pounds / 12 Euros, which for many is too much for an exhibition and also most of the events also had to be payed for. We contacted the group organising the event and asked them were they streaming these important talks, so that those unable to get to them could at least listen live to them over the net. They were not streaming, so we offered to set up streaming facilitities to enable people to listen and maybe participate in these discussions. We were turned down, they did not plan to stream and did not want to do it.

Below are some of the summarys of the various architectural ideas presented at the exhibition and some personal responses to the exhibition

At the moment there is an ever growing radical network of autonomous spaces and ways of living that are about inclusivity, action for improved living conditions, DIY, self organisation and more: social centres, squatted villages, squatted city industrial space turned into organic food gardens, radical radio centres, reclaimed streets…….

We are wondering whether these ideas will be discussed in Venice, there was no mention at the london exhibiton. For a long time there has been walls put up against this “alternative” world but perhaps now it is getting to the time when the “architectural” world will have to listen to this new world of autonomous spaces and living, for many the “architectural” world has become sterile and lifeless, perhaps now it will have to be seriously confronted, perhaps Venice will be the meeting ground.

Who knows, maybe the “architectural” world will find that it is in this “alternative” world that the critical edge of architecture has been happening for the last while.

Perhaps we are on the virge of a new age, as the anthropologist David Graeber said “But then, the anarchist century has only just begun.”


previous related audio:

Red archive feedback session :
between “art” and “activist” communities-@ 30 mns
(May 2004 – project, Dublin)

Discussion with Sarah Pierce about the bienelle:
the changing nature of the art world, art spaces….
(september 2005- cobblestone, Dublin)

Research and action trip, report 1:
Autonoumous spaces @ Europe, a research and action trip
(Thu, 31 Aug 2006)

anarchy, squatting, autonoumous spaces, ecological spaces and systems, social centres, community gardens……..

For the last few years a great new system has been growing throughout the world; independant and autonomous buildings, gardens, spaces, villages, communities. In Europe they are known as social centres. I have been working for over the last year in Dublin in the creation of some of these spaces, both gardens and a centre for the city, which thankfully now seems to be gathering momentum. I am presently unertaking a research and action trip to visit some of these very exciting places around Europe, to live in some of them, work in and from some of them, understand better how they function and how different they are in different places, see how much of an impact they have in their wider community; the local neighbourhood, the town or city, country, world … further connect an ever growing network.

Due to the autonomous nature of these spaces, at times they face threats from both the state and other forces. In Denmark at present 2 such spaces are being threathened; Umgumshoset is presently resisting eviction and Cristiania, the famous anarchist free state that has existed for 30 over years in Copenhagen city centre, is facing continued police pressence in an effort to “normalise” it.

I am presently in the Gaztetxea (social centre) Kukutza in Bilbao, Basque country, which has been open for 7 years and is an amazing space; a big old 5 story factory turned into a space for nearly everything: gigs, bar, circus space, crash space, art space… there are murals, posters and stickers everywhere, i am currently using the media space which is beside the library, which is on a mezzanine level at the side of the main stage, the hall currently has giant sized multi coloured puppets occupying its floor, yesterday there was a huge Palestinian flag being assembled and there is a circus of sorts visiting Bilbao next week that will put on their shows and workshops out of the centre. all in all, a place of positive creativity and action.

In France I attended the PGA (Peoples´ Global Action) during which there was a decentralised meeting in Toulouse about “Urbanism and access to the land”. Here people gathered to share their experiences, develop ideas and strategies, and also to do a political action to challenge the authorities closure of la Drole Ecole (funny school) squat in the jardin du cite (city garden) which happened 7 years ago. The gathering began with a morning assembly moving to the closed squat garden, the opening of the massive gates, the unloading of materials and equipment for the weeklong meeting, the autoconstruction of mobile eco buildings, the setting up of an independant media centre, the setting up of a tent for the kitchen, the construction of compost toilets, the construction of a solar heated shower, the settting up of a presentation area explaining why this action was happening in this area with a well documented history of the area from old photos and newspaper cuttings. The neighbours were contacted and invited to attend the camp and to participate in the discussions or watch the evening film screenings. The ping pong table was a big hit with the local kids and a few got their hands dirty, perhaps for the first time, with the creation of a new community garden in the newly (re)opened city garden of Bourossol.

A fantastic squatted village in the Pyranees was also visited and there again much discussions happened, after a big party on the Saturday night.



———-social centres

———-london : future city: experiment and utopia in architecture 1956 – 2006

Seomra Spraoi (new Dublin social centre),
Dolphins barn community garden
an eco corridor for Dublin city

———-Denmark :
Copenhagen :
Cristiania (presently undergoing “normalization” process),
Umgumshoset (presently resisting eviction)

———-PGA conference, France
PGA bourassol feature on imc-toulouse
reports from PGA and further analysis + related articles (STAMP site – sans titre network)…
PGA Toulouse main discussion – Debate on Access to the land…

———-Basque Gaztetxe (social centres):
Irala radio network, who work from Irala Gaztetxe

———-Venice Biennale Architecture…
critical discussion @ monks garden, venice
The Irish at Venice
Monks Garden

David Graeber
audio –
essay –



(originally posted on RADIO INDYMEDIA with audios – 2006-09-04)



Open forum at RED ARCHIVE expo; relationship between art and politics

Art spaces as weapons of war

Dublin’s Mayday 2004 saw thousands of opponents to fortress Europe beaten away by riot cops and water cannons. Days later, RED ARCHIVE, a strange OPEN communication space seeking all inputs, was asking: What is art, what is politics?

As activists, we used this space to communicate and build in and out of, to wander from and bring people to, to share critical ideas, to widen the discussion. Our ongoing war is one of communication against today’s culture of ignorance and apathy. Seven million people continue to die needlessly every year, perhaps our actions helped?


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