Image: The Church of Santa Maria del Mar and its relation with the Born Paseo, Barcelona, 2015. Gothic Church used as (cooled) event space (picture by Scheerlinck Kris (2015)


“The city is the very place where the private domain can be, and often is, a social domain, just as much as or indeed even more than the public domain (…) Private buildings as public elements, radiating social meaning and value that extend beyond the actual buildings embody their urban character. (…) Collective spaces are not strictly public or private, but both simultaneously. These are public spaces that are used for private activities, or private spaces that allow for collective use, and they include the whole spectrum in between (…)

de Sola-Morales, M. (1992). Public and Collective Space: The Urbanisation of the Private Domain as a New Challenge. In Oase, nº 33, 3-8.


The Research Group “Urban Projects, Collective Spaces and Local Identities” (Department of Architecture, KU Leuven, Ghent, Belgium) and the Department of Urbanism and Regional Planning (DUOT, ETSAB UPC, Barcelona, Spain) proudly launch a six-month-long real-life research and design seminar with the title “Collective Spaces (Re)Visited”, celebrating it has been exactly thirty years since Manuel de Solà-Morales (ETSAB, UPC Barcelona) introduced the notion of “collective space”. This way, he kindly suggested leaving behind the traditional public-private dichotomy when referring to the planning, reading or use of urban space, looking beyond absolute property distinctions but rather considering urban space an ambiguous and variable social construct, where its collective spaces include a wide range of privateness or publicness, instead of being sandwiched in between. Instead of looking into private properties or studying traditional public spaces, he then suggested to look into new urban destinations, like shopping malls, airports, stations museums etc. to understand an ever-changing urbanity. Since then, numerous researchers and designers have further developed these ideas, while urban realities and conditions changed evidently.

Honoring the legacy of de Solà-Morales and the broader expertise of ETSAB/DUOT Barcelona school and KU Leuven Department of Architecture of developing urban projects, and building on the shared experiences within our research groups and beyond, it seems the right moment to identify and study the most contemporary spaces, situations or destinations that follow the original concept. 

During six months, starting in May 2022, each researcher and designer of both groups will identify, (re)visit and discuss these “contemporary collective spaces”. Linked to their ongoing individual or joint research and design projects, their design studios, theory courses or electives, the researchers and doctoral candidates will review the original list of types of collective spaces, or suggest new types that emerged in the past three decades. This research starts from reality itself, from in situ experiences of visiting these contemporary collective spaces in different locations all over Europe. Sometimes this will happen by the researcher alone, sometimes accompanied by a colleague or a researcher from outside the research group as to discuss the value of these of spaces in the construction of contemporary territories. The outcomes will be of multiple nature: from photographic mapping to a series of on-site interviews, scientific papers, experimental interventions etc. Soon, we will publish on this website the list of visits/activities that will take place as part of this real-live seminar, as a pars pro toto seminar on collective spaces. At the end of this year, in December 2022, a closing international joint seminar will be organised to discuss these findings with all members of the Research Group and invited guests.


Stay tuned, more updates soon!