It has been almost six months since the last post on this blog — I had not realized that it had reached over 1,000 followers during this period, thank you all for reading! Besides the typically frantic teaching and management schedules here in Madrid, this absence is due to additional tasks related to my appointment as general research coordinator in the School of Architecture and, especially, the time dedicated to the parenting of my three-year-old, which is of course the most fascinating investigation and source of discovery on a daily basis. Needless to say there are immediate, affective reasons to embrace a ‘radical care’ praxis at this stage, but our current arrangements at home are also an opportunity to put to work many things learned through a long theoretical engagement with the political implications of autonomous, non-commodified forms of (social) reproduction. It is a real joy, but this means that for now all the remaining available time is devoted to deal with various writing projects, hence the silence on this site.
I keep working on a book that explores the historical development of spatial planning as a mechanism of dispossession and destruction of the commons, prolonging and expanding previous contributions on this subject. I spent a good part of 2017 writing a chapter on the Weimar Republic, and during this year I am focusing on Italy during the 1970s and 1980s, trying to read the development of post-crisis urban-regional models as a response to forms of spatial appropriation of Autonomia groups in Bologna, Milano, Torino and Roma in the preceding years. Although my ultimate target is planning, I have spent the last couple months reading fascinating accounts of struggle in primary sources such as Lotta Continua, Primo Maggio, Quaderni Piacentini, Rosso, or I Volsci, amongst others. These are rich and captivating archival resources, many of them available online, which I recommend to those interested in modern forms of urban communism and anarchism. Besides a relatively large general historical literature on the period, there are also some extremely useful brief syntheses of Autonomia from a spatial perspective, for instance by Alexander Vasudevan in a chapter of his The Autonomous City and by Neil Gray in a recent article in Antipode, or, from a design perspective, by Pier Vittorio Aureli in his The Project of Autonomy. My aim at this point is to develop a more detailed spatial examination, focusing on specific episodes of struggle in different neighborhoods and places in major cities.
For a while now this larger project has coexisted with commissioned pieces for various books and journals. The first to appear will probably be a chapter about the spatial production of community under Fascism for the book Powers of the City: New Approaches to Governance and Rule in Urban Europe since 1500, edited by Simon Gunn and Tom Hulme for the Routledge series Advances in Urban History (the first volume, Cities and Creativity from the Renaissance to the Present, is already available). Also to be published this year, I prepared a very speculative piece for an upcoming issue of the Harvard GSD journal New Geographies — edited by Urban Theory Lab’s members Michael Chieffalo and Julia Smachylo — using a planning historical perspective to reflect on the articulation of space, time and value through the concept of fallowness. In a more orthodox design history approach, I revisited the work of German planner Martin Wagner and its relation with community and productive landscape designs by Leberecht Migge, Ludwig Hilberseimer and Hans Bernhard Reichow in another book chapter for a volume edited by Jeanne Haffner under the working title The Environment Built: Dwelling as Landscape in Twentieth-Century Urbanism, forthcoming in 2019. I also wrote two pieces in Spanish about the role of Henri Lefebvre and Manuel Castells in Madrid’s 1985 City Plan, a sort of landmark for Spanish progressive planners which will finally receive deserved scholarly attention through a massive book coordinated by Carlos Sambricio and Paloma Ramos. Finally, I am currently preparing a short intervention for a review symposium in European Urban and Regional Studies, discussing Costis Hadjimichalis’ fundamental Crisis Spaces: Structures, Struggles and Solidarity in Southern Europe (Routledge, 2018). Besides these academic writing tasks, I recently contributed an expert report to an interesting discussion about the future of Pamplona’s ‘Monument to the Fallen’, a controversial monument to the Fascist victims of the Spanish Civil War, built between the 1940s and 1950 — the second largest of its kind according to some sources — and currently in the spotlight of progressive parties in the city and associations of so-called ‘historical memory’, i.e. demanding reparations and restorative justice related to the Spanish dictatorial regime.
So overall it has been a busy period, and the trend is likely to continue in the near future, but I will try to write here — or at least share these and other materials — more often.