This chapter has explored the pressures that neoliberal economics have placed over the practice of architecture. Many of these pressures are presented in the form of economic incentives that allow some key players to take advantage and display power asymmetries over other members of the discipline. The practice of architecture today reflects a global condition of inequality, where a small number of high-stakes commissions defines the aspiration of the field at large. Out of such pressures, the Commons can be understood as social systems co-producing the common goods that define a commonwealth for the discipline. Today, the Commons are under siege by market enclosures that seek to privatize and regulate access to wealth produced socially. This battle is actively being fought through digital networks, where large players have developed platforms for the extraction and gatekeeping of social wealth.
An Architecture for the Commons will need first to identify and separate itself from its neoliberal counterpart, as the value systems that they utilize are at odds with one another. We live in a time in history where the consolidation of oligopolies at different scales attempts to dictate and make a historic reading of the values and current tendencies. In architecture, the emergence of “Parametricism,” as advocated by Patrik Schumacher, is the most prevalent reading of current market dynamics through the language of form and composition, understanding the discipline as a whole from its education, institutions and practice. In Schumacher’s perspective, Parametricism constitutes an emergent epochal style of architecture, one that is founded on notions of liberal economics projecting a value proposition of freedom and order. Schumacher is a strong proponent of architecture’s autonomy and the idea that the progress of a formal vocabulary should persist as a compass for the discipline.
There is a real danger for such claims to go unchallenged. Within the heuristics of Parametricism lie an attack on the potential of cooperative enterprises and collaborative production. Parametricism, as we will explore throughout the following chapter, has developed a vector of market enclosure, offering strategic advantages to larger industrial players. The emphasis on access, encapsulation of knowledge into design elements and cooperative digital platforms need to be disentangled from modes of production that are either co-opted by capital holders or plainly pursue vectors of progress that are detrimental to the prosperity of the city and its inhabitants. An Architecture for the Commons needs to be understood as an independent strand of architectural development, one that could coexist with its market counterpart. Its autonomy would only be possible through a participatory value system that might deviate from canonical trajectories.
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