Commune
Third-year core undergraduate studio
UIC School of Architecture
Fall 2019

with James Carter, Abigail Chang and Agata M. Siemionow

The word cenobio — literally “life in common”— refers to an ideal form of collective living. Associated with the earliest experiences of isolated monastic communities across Egypt, Palestine, and Syria between the 3rd and 4th centuries BC, the term indicates the collective attempt of living together in isolation according to an established rule and confined within a specific architectural enclosure. It presupposes a radical withdrawal from society through the deliberate choice of an alternative form of life and the specificity of a rational architecture.

But the lesson of the cenobio has been widely practiced through centuries, even on this side of the Atlantic. From the religious communities wandering across the virgin lands of the United States in the 19th century, through company towns, workers' cooperatives, artists’ associations, students’ fraternities, communes of hippies, anarchic groups, and underground squats, up to contemporary corporate campuses, co-sharing workshops and freelancers’ hubs, the cenobitic machine still resonates today, within the hectic pace of the contemporary metropolis.

The studio explores how to live together through the definition of an architectural project: assemblages of individual and collective rooms, animated by prescribed liturgies, shared rhythms and rituals, with all sorts of productive activities oscillating between intimacy and confrontation, mental exercise and physical efforts, leisure, and boredom.

 
 
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