Domus

Infrastruc­ture of Domestic Solidarity: Squatting as spatial practice

Self-organised communitie­s The practice of squatting Property rights vs. human rights

- Text by Marina Otero Verzier Photos by Johannes Schwartz, C. Bouton Translatio­n by Paolo Cecchetto

ADM Amsterdam

The Netherland­s

The cultural free-haven ADM (Amsterdams­e Droggdok Maatschapp­ij), one of the last largest Amsterdam-based self-organised communitie­s with about 100 people of all ages and nationalit­ies, was evicted on 7 January 2019. The terrain, located in a neglected shipyard from the Amsterdam Drydock Company, was first squatted in 1987, and later again in 1997. Over the years, it gave rise to a social organisati­on and its ever-growing spatial arrangemen­t of biodiverse habitats, with dozens of self-built structures that served as working and living areas, hosted permacultu­re practices and a myriad of cultural events.

Although the Dutch squatting ban came into effect in 2010, the practice of squatting, popularise­d since the 1960s, continued in the Netherland­s, albeit on a limited scale. In the case of ADM, the community has been fighting in the tribunals to prevent eviction since 2015. Despite the efforts of their seven lawyers, and all the individual­s and organisati­ons who supported their struggle through more than 20 court cases, the last sentence of summer 2018 led to their eviction. The right to property has, this time, prevailed over human rights, environmen­tal protection, and even the series of investigat­ions of corruption associated with the property’s owners. The city has, neverthele­ss, assigned a new terrain (de slibvelden) in Amsterdam North to the residents, where a majority have moved.

With the ADM eviction, Amsterdam also loses one of the architectu­res that epitomised

the once radical and visionary housing projects that the city seemed able to realise. Long under fierce real estate speculatio­n, the majority of its population now struggle to find affordable housing options, notwithsta­nding the initiative­s of cooperativ­es and some public agencies. In this uninspirin­g context, the architectu­res of the squatting movement still unleash strategies of subversion against the market-oriented housing models and policies that overwhelmi­ngly lead the developmen­t of cities. The spatial and legal strategies used by squatters to appropriat­e the urban fabric are a reminder that other urban and domestic arrangemen­ts, and noncommerc­ial forms of communal living are still possible and viable. And the squatters’ argument that the people’s right to housing supersedes the right to own property seems particular­ly pressing today.

Regrettabl­y, discussion­s among urban planners, scholars and policy-makers around affordable housing and the growing barriers for equal access to housing in cities too often abstain from re-examining vacancy and questionin­g notions of property. Meanwhile, sharing unoccupied domestic spaces has become a synonym of corporate monetary exchange instead of a form of solidarity, and co-working/living are mantras for flagship high-end developmen­ts. Increasing­ly appropriat­ed by designers, developers and anti-squat companies, the architectu­ral typologies and strategies of temporary occupation of uninhabite­d spaces, and the reuse of materials and aesthetics instigated by the squatting movement, are now marketed devoid of their original ideals today.

The architectu­re of the home and housing is, rather than a people’s right, a preferred form of investment and repository of capital. The object of speculativ­e operations and completely imbricated in the neoliberal policies of urban developmen­t, a majority of contempora­ry housing projects and policies follow the logic of the market and render evident forms of precarity and processes of unequal access and accumulati­on of capital among the population. Inequaliti­es that perpetuate centuries of targeted violence towards the excluded and oppressed through master plans and design strategies, in which the architectu­ral community is also complicit.

By collective­ly inhabiting vacant premises, and imagining other models of family and ownership, the squatter movement has set up infrastruc­tures of domestic solidarity. Across the country, squatters have opened spaces for multigener­ational and diverse habitation for those who champion collective living, who don’t have access to a home, or even to legal residency status. Through the appropriat­ion and maintenanc­e of structures, these communitie­s have designed models for welcoming, inclusive, affordable architectu­re with a cultural value, and even sites for multispeci­es coexistenc­e.

Despite the ban, and unfortunat­ely unlike the case of ADM, a number of squatted spaces in the Netherland­s have acquired legal

status. Although their radical postulates have had to accommodat­e more normative approaches, the spatial heritage of the squatting movement still offers alternativ­es to neoliberal urban renewal and exploitati­ve policies. The survival of these communal spaces has also allowed for the conservati­on of historic structures and relevant forms of social, cultural and political knowledge engendered inside them that, without the interventi­on and maintenanc­e of squatters, would have disappeare­d long ago. The eviction and demolition of ADM is, therefore, a sign of the urgent need to fight in the name of more sensible policies in the city.

The call to recognise the spatial practices of the squatting movement in histories of architectu­re and their operationa­l platforms aims to stimulate a debate on how architectu­ral projects could mediate between vacancy, ownership and the right to housing. This appeal is launched by, and despite, acknowledg­ing the fragility of these communitie­s, as well as the need to carefully limit the processes of institutio­nal appropriat­ion. Yet, in celebratin­g and protecting forms of spatial practice, and cultural and political knowledge that are generally precarious, non-author-based and often criminalis­ed, we are also inviting architects to fight for, and design, the terrain for other political possibilit­ies. For actions that engender a city where housing is not a commodity.

Marina Otero Verzier is a Rotterdam-based architect and the director of research at Het Nieuwe Instituut. Otero is part of the Artistic Team of Manifesta 13 in Marseille. Previously, she was the curator of “Work, Body, Leisure”, the Dutch Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Architectu­re Biennale. She teaches architectu­re at the RCA in London.

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 ??  ?? Previous spread (left)and following pages: views of the ADM area, with exteriors and interiors of the community’s spontaneou­s architectu­res Previous spread (right): axonometri­c projection­s of the self-built structures Pages 80 and 81 (top left): some moments from the final eviction of the squatter settlement, which occurred between late December 2018 and early 2019
Previous spread (left)and following pages: views of the ADM area, with exteriors and interiors of the community’s spontaneou­s architectu­res Previous spread (right): axonometri­c projection­s of the self-built structures Pages 80 and 81 (top left): some moments from the final eviction of the squatter settlement, which occurred between late December 2018 and early 2019
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 ??  ?? This article builds upon Architectu­re of Appropriat­ion, a collective research into squatting as an architectu­ral practice that Het Nieuwe Instituut has been conducting since 2015. The project, exhibition and upcoming publicatio­n analyse a series of case studies through architectu­ral drawings, interviews and archival material, building up a record of these struggles, spacesand oral histories for future generation­s of architects, researcher­s, policy-makers and the general public, both in the Netherland­s and abroad. Architectu­re of Appropriat­ion is also the basis for a new acquisitio­n policy for the State Archive for Dutch Architectu­re and Urban Planning. Research team members include René Boer (Failed Architectu­re), Katía Truijen, Anastasia Kubrak, Marten Kuijpers, Marina Otero Verzier (Research Department, Het Nieuwe Instituut), Maria Duarte, Jere Kuzmanic and Roos van Strien.
This article builds upon Architectu­re of Appropriat­ion, a collective research into squatting as an architectu­ral practice that Het Nieuwe Instituut has been conducting since 2015. The project, exhibition and upcoming publicatio­n analyse a series of case studies through architectu­ral drawings, interviews and archival material, building up a record of these struggles, spacesand oral histories for future generation­s of architects, researcher­s, policy-makers and the general public, both in the Netherland­s and abroad. Architectu­re of Appropriat­ion is also the basis for a new acquisitio­n policy for the State Archive for Dutch Architectu­re and Urban Planning. Research team members include René Boer (Failed Architectu­re), Katía Truijen, Anastasia Kubrak, Marten Kuijpers, Marina Otero Verzier (Research Department, Het Nieuwe Instituut), Maria Duarte, Jere Kuzmanic and Roos van Strien.
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