AR-472 / 3 credits


Language: English


This course provides a critical and historical examination of cooperative housing in Zurich and Geneva, since the late 19th century to today. Maintaining an architectural focus, it highlights connections between context, underlining ideologies, the living practices of residents, and the built forms.



Commons (urban)

Housing Cooperatives

Residential typologies

Citizen participation and urban activism


19th-21st century

Learning Prerequisites

Important concepts to start the course

Cooperation, Participation, Self-sufficiency (autonomy) 

Urban and Residential typologies (Garden City, perimeter block, Siedlung etc.)

Commons / urban commons

Grassroots activism / social movements





Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, the student must be able to:

  • Assess / Evaluate collective housing projects
  • Interpret architectural and urban forms
  • Analyze residential typologies
  • Contextualise housing projects in urban / historical context
  • Deduce connections between ideology and form

Transversal skills

  • Demonstrate the capacity for critical thinking
  • Access and evaluate appropriate sources of information.
  • Plan and carry out activities in a way which makes optimal use of available time and other resources.
  • Use a work methodology appropriate to the task.

Teaching methods

The course approaches the history of communal living as an interdisciplinary field of knowledge that integrates architectural and urban design, typological innovation as well as social and cultural change. 

Teaching methodologies include: historical survey, architectural and urban analysis, comparison of case studies, architectural criticism, synthesis and interpretation.

The course will be delivered as lectures with slides, followed by Q&A session.

Expected student activities

Students are expected to attend all lectures.

When provided, course readings must be completed before the lecture, to assist comprehension and discussion. Students are encouraged to prepare questions and discuss them in class after the lecture.

Students will prepare a short essay /written report on a cooperative housing project (preferably built) in Switzerland or abroad. All case studies must be approved by lecturer in advance.

For the oral exam, the students will discuss their written report and answer general knowledge questions based on the material covered during lectures.


Assessment methods

memoire / oral:

  • short written work (1000 words), 40% of the grade
  • Oral exam based on discussion of paper + general knowledge question, 60% of the grade.



Avermaete, Tom. ‘Constructing the Commons: Towards Another Architectural Theory of the City: Die Konstruktion von Gemeingütern – Ausblick Auf Eine Andere Architekturtheorie Der Stadt’. ARCH+, vol. An Atlas of Commoning: Orte des Gemeinschaffens, no. 232, July 2018, pp. 32–43.

Balmer, Ivo, and Tobias Bernet. ‘Housing as a Common Resource? Decommodification and Self–Organization in Housing–Examples from Germany and Switzerland’. Urban Commons: Moving beyond State and Market, edited by Mary Dellenbaugh, Bauverlag ; Birkhäuser, 2015, pp. 178–95.

Banz, Esther, et al. Rundum ABZ : Allgemeine Baugenossenschaft Zürich 1916-2016. Allgemeine Baugenossenschaft Zürich, 2016.

Boudet, Dominique, editor. New Housing in Zurich Typologies for a Changing Society. Park Book, 2017.

Dellenbaugh, Mary, et al., editors. Urban Commons: Moving beyond State and Market. Bauverlag ; Birkhäuser, 2015.

Delz, Sascha, et al., editors. Housing the Co-Op. A Micro-Political Manifesto. Ruby Press, 2020.

Durban, Christoph, editor. Mehr Als Wohnen: Gemeinnütziger Wohnungsbau in Zürich, 1907-2007: Bauten Und Siedlungen. Stadt Zürich : Gta-Verlag, 2007.

Harvey, David. Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution. Paperback ed, Verso, 2013.

Hugentobler, Margrit, et al., editors. More than Housing: Cooperative Planning - a Case Study in Zürich. Birkhäuser, 2016.

Madden, David J., and Peter Marcuse. In Defense of Housing: The Politics of Crisis. Verso, 2016. Merrifield, Andy, et al. The Right to the City: A Verso Report. Verso, 2017.

Ostrom, Elinor. Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Pearson, Lynn F. The Architectural and Social History of Cooperative Living. Macmillan, 1988.

RUBY PRESS, et al., editors. Together! The New Architecture of the Collective. Vitra Design Museum, 2017. Schmid, Susanne, et al. A History of Collective Living: Forms of Shared Housing. Birkhäuser, 2019.

Schmid, Susanne. A History of Collective Living: Forms of Shared Housing. Edited by Dietmar Eberle et al., Birkhäuser, 2019.

Sennett, Richard. Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Co-Operation. Penguin, 2013.

Stahel, Thomas, and Jonas Voegeli. Wo-Wo-Wonige: Stadt- und wohnpolitische Bewegungen in Zürich nach 1968. 1. Aufl, Paranoia City Verlag, 2006.

Stavrides, Stavros. Common Space: The City as Commons. Zed Books, 2016.

Tornow, Britta, and Wohnbund. Europa: gemeinsam wohnen : co-operative housing = Europe. Jovis, 2015.

In the programs

  • Semester: Spring
  • Exam form: Oral (summer session)
  • Subject examined: Swiss cooperative housing: a critical overview
  • Lecture: 2 Hour(s) per week x 12 weeks
  • Semester: Spring
  • Exam form: Oral (summer session)
  • Subject examined: Swiss cooperative housing: a critical overview
  • Lecture: 2 Hour(s) per week x 12 weeks

Reference week