• New Geographies 12: Commons
    Mojdeh Mahdavi and Liang Wang
    Harvard Graduate School of Design and Actar Publishers, 2021
    Harvard University-Graduate School of Design

Helmut Voitl, “Participatory Design with residents of Planquadrat Vienna,” 1974. Photo and copyright: Helmut Voitl

New Geographies 12: Commons seeks to open a conversation to delineate the historical and theoretical knowledge and a set of key issues that shape the idea of commons today. In particular, it aspires to decipher the tension central to this dialectic: the hinge between commoning and enclosure. It mobilizes the concept of the commons (singular) as a politico-spatial framework to interrogate and politicize various forms of contemporary commons (plural). It grounds the delicate net of processes and conditions of commons that are in constant flux as the production of space is reconceptualized and restructured to address the requirements of (re)production in the late capitalism. Expanding the discourse of commons into a planetary territory, New Geographies 12: Commons encompasses the intimate and subjective scale of the human body and the more-than-human yet omnipresent living environment and earth. It transcends the subjective world of humans—its perceived boundaries and territories—and recalibrates the terrestrial scale of things to a cosmological framework of the Anthropocene. The commons in this volume is foregrounded as a socio-political project—one that embraces various modes of commoning practice and knowledge production across the globe—to chart an epistemological heterogeneity that is fundamental for an alternative framework for the production of space.

Mojdeh Mahdavi is an architect, urban designer, and currently a doctor of design candidate at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. At Harvard, she is also a teaching fellow and research associate. Mahdavi’s doctoral project focuses on digitization of urban governance, instrumentalization of smart cities, and the impacts on sociospatial equity. Her boarder research investigates the constructed and contested, yet unknown digital geographies formed by technoscientific urban restructuring and the role of big data in the processes of enclosure under logic of late capitalism. Mahdavi has practiced urban and architectural design in Paris, Tehran, and Almaty and presented her work at conferences in Switzerland, France, Canada and the US. She received a research-based (mention recherche) post-master’s degree in architecture and urbanism from École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture Paris La Villette (ENSAPLV) and a master’s in landscape architecture from the University of Tehran.

Liang Wang is an architect and urbanist. He currently teaches at Syracuse University’s School of Architecture. He is also a doctoral candidate and previously a teaching fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD). His scholarship and teaching concern history and theory of urban form, space, and politics of the superblock, architecture and the idea of the city in East Asia, as well as the idea of the commons and collective living. Wang completed his master’s of architecture in urban design degree from the Harvard GSD and holds a master’s of architecture degree from Rice University. He is the cofounder of Commons Office and has previously practiced architecture and urban design at Herzog & de Meuron, SOM, BIG, and WW Architecture.

The mission of the Harvard University Graduate School of Design is to advance the professions concerned with the planning and design of buildings and landscapes, together with their urban, suburban, and rural settings; and to matriculate students poised to challenge the conventions of design and transform the built environment in an increasingly complex and competitive global landscape. New Geographies is a student-edited journal founded in the Fall of 2008.