Commoning processes in Austerity urbanism: spatial REgeneration and governance.

CARE aims to address the emerging debate on urban commons with a specific focus on its impacts on spatial regeneration urban policies.


Main issues raised & general objectives

In recent years, European cities are experimenting urban policy tools and procedures enabling citizens not only to make use of disused buildings, but also to produce public interest activities and to take charge of their design and physical renovation. By giving the possibility - and the burden - to civil society promoters to gather resources and competences to transform spaces, those tools challenge the processes, actors and objectives of public works and urban planning. Some of those tools reinforce partnerships between municipalities and civil society producing directly or indirectly commoning processes, understood as “some mix of individual and private initiative to organise and capture externality effects while putting some aspect of the environment outside of the market” (Havery, 2012). The project is based on two main hypotheses. One postulates that those experimentations bring out the contradictions of austerity urbanism (Peck, 2012) between valorization of local forces and transformation of public services. The second postulates that those projects produce a form of caring architecture (Tronto, 2020) that changes the processes of architectural and urban design by recycling the existing city and caring for its maintenance. The objectives of the project are 1) to characterize those experiences of regenerative urban commoning within an international perspective, 2) to understand how they modify architectural production and urban development, and 3) to verify if they produce specific kinds of urban commons and spatial care practices.


Projects’ ethnographies

CARE is based on an interdisciplinary approach. The main methodological orientation of the project is the articulation between ethnography and spatial analysis. The research team is composed by international researchers in architecture, urban planning, sociology, geography, law and anthropology. The inquiry is grounded on a comparison between cities in France, Italy and Spain. Those countries seem to be at the forefront of the social and institutional innovation on urban commons and they constitute comparable normative contexts. A first panel of cities (Grenoble, Nantes, Bologna and Madrid) have been selected under two main criteria: the interrelation between existing tools of austerity management and spatial transformation through commoning and historical implication of citizens in urban transformations. Those cities will be enquired through an ethnography that will collect data on: 1) the profiles of actors involved in the processes and their networks; 2) the emergence of regenerative urban commoning tools in relation to history of the city urban development; 3) the uses of buildings and the governance of projects. This data will be used to create a first analysis grid which will be inserted in an inventory and tested by short immersions in a selection of other case studies in three new cities to broaden the spectrum of knowledge. The inventory will be composed of quantitative data and visual data descriptions: maps, project timelines, video clips and photographs.


Main results

CARE will bring new knowledge to three main scientific fields: 1) urban planning, through the issue of citizens’ participation and collaborative governance of public services; 2) architecture, through the issue of building recycling and maintenance as forms of collective spatial care and of sustainable design; 3) urban studies, through the critical approach to neoliberal development and its alternatives. In the medium and short term, the project will contribute to the political and social debate on urban commons by showing the existence of regenerative urban commoning in European cities, inventorying its tools and actors, and proposing a grid of analysis. These results wish to contribute to local public policies design and to the critical reflection of urban activists. CARE will also contribute to enrich the academic teaching by bringing new elements of theorisation on urban commons and on participatory urban planning and by contributing to bring care theories in the field of architecture and urban planning. The team members will participate in conferences and symposia and will organise a final international conference. The results will also be disseminated to city councilors, city technicians, associations and activists through open seminars. The inventory will take the form of website as an open archive composed of heterogeneous material and of a wide audience collective book inspired by different kinds of atlas (landscape, urban photography, political territorial analysis). The research results will be also reported through 4 main scientific articles (an international comparative state of art and 3 thematic entries) in international and national journals.


Project coordinator

  • GATTA Federica, Pacte, Grenoble-Alpes University (architect-urban planner) 

WP Co-referent researchers

  • CARLONE Teresa, Department of Sociology and Economic Law, Bologna University (sociologist) 

  • LEONARDI Cécile, laboratory AE&CC, National School of Architecture of Grenoble (sociologist) 

  • MARELLI Carolina Mudan, Department of Sociology and Economic Law, Bologna University (sociologist) 

  • RAMIREZ-COBO Inès, laboratory IDEES, Havre University (architect-urban planner)

  • VASSALLO Ianira, Department of Regional and Urban Studies and Planning, Polytechnic of Turin (architect) 

Team members

  • BARBA José Juan, Planning Department at the University of Alcala de Henares of Madrid (architect)

  • BIANCHETTI Cristina, Department of Regional and Urban Studies and Planning, Polytechnic of Turin (architect)

  • de BIASE Alessia, laboratory LAVUE, National School of Architecture Paris la Villette (architect-anthropologist)

  • BERGAMASCHI Maurizio, Department of Sociology and Economic Law, Bologna University (sociologist)

  • BRAYER Laure, laboratory AAU, National School of Architecture of Grenoble (architect)

  • CASTRILLO-ROMÓN María, Institute of Urban Planning, University of Valladolid, Espagne (architect-urban planner)

  • DEVISME Laurent, laboratory AAU, National School of Architecture of Nantes (urban planner)

  • GOLAY Florian, National School of Architecture of Grenoble (architect) 

  • MANOLA Théa, laboratory AAU, National School of Architecture of Grenoble (architect-urban planner)

  • ROUX-COGNAT Segolène, laboratoire CRJ, Grenoble-Alpes University (lawyer)

  • TALLEC Josselin, Pacte, Grenoble-Alpes University (geographer)

Internship students

  • NICOLAS Alouna M2 Architecture Urban planning Political Studies, Grenoble-Alpes University, February-July 2023

Town planning
austerity urbanism
caring architecture
building regeneration

Federica Gatta

Project funding: 
ANR AAP Jeunes Chercheurs Jeunes Chercheuses
Type de projet: 

About the project leader :

gattaf's picture Federica Gatta

​Architect and urban planner. Member of Pacte since 2015.


  • MArch, Roma Tre University Faculty of Architecture, 2009.
  • PhD in urbanism and urban planning, Ouest-Nanterre... plus