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(Re)Commoning the Urban Aquatic

Team: Bene Wahlbrink, Eugenio Cappuccio, Julius Grambow
Collaboration: School of Commons (ZHdK Zürich)

Location: Berlin, London, Zurich

Type: Research

Year: 2022

PRC is part of the School of Commons LEARN-Lab (Learning Environment And Research Nucleus) 2022."School of Commons is a community-based initiative dedicated to the study and development of self-organized knowledge, located at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK).“

In the coming months, we will be carrying out research exploring ways in which to preserve the physical use of and access to water as a common good within urban environments.


London, Woodberry Wetlands
Photo by Eugenio Cappuccio


Berlin, pipes for transferring ground water
Photo by Julius Grambow


Zürich, Limmat
Photo by Bene Wahlbrink

On 14th February 2019, citizens in the canton of Zurich voted 54.6% against the privatisation of its water management. Although a victory for direct democracy, this slight majority demonstrates the increasing threat that is posed to water access in the city, and its undeniable role within the immediate future of the Anthropocene.


How can we address the inequalities to the global distribution of commons, and more specifically water?

Zurich, London and Berlin are three cities with very specific relationships to their waterways. The aim of this proposal is to start from these three cities as our personal backgrounds, to understand the access to water as a common good within other urban contexts. Utilising a collaborative methodology that focuses on process rather than product, we propose to investigate water use through three lenses: Infrastructure, Energy and Climate, and the Social-Spatial.

How can we overcome the binaries between designers, facilitators and users? In what ways can we sensitise urban environments for new ways of commoning water?


Slides from the SOC Kitchen Session, March 2022


This first phase of the work was an initial step to build an understanding of this complex topic. Now we would like to expand the research with your collaboration. 

We would like to ask you a series of questions related to the topic of water in the city. The aim is to understand the importance, value and relevance of waterways across different cultural, geographical and urban contexts throughout our network of people. Is there a particularly special place that inspires you and others? Please translate these thoughts through this short survey with accompanying photo that will form a visual part of our research through the mapping of your ideas and places. 


We appreciate your participation and are looking forward to your answers and contributions.

©️ 2023 Panta Rhei Collaborative

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