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Towards the Collective City

Autonoma Conference in Athens

International Conference on Urban Autonomy and the Collective City

Onassis Cultural Center

1 & 2 July 2016 - Athens, Greece

“The autonomous society -the way I conceive it- is a society that very well knows that there is no transcendence, that there is no transcendent source of laws and institutions, that there is no afterlife. It is a society whose members know that whatever there is to be done, they have to do it themselves and to offer this to themselves and the community. It is a society that knows that itself creates its institutions and laws. And this very fact allows it, to exist as autonomous society, in the same way as it allows its members to exist as autonomous individuals within this society”.


Cornelius Castoriadis



In a time when global financial institutions largely define the means of urbanization across the world, citizens have less and less agency in the decision-making processes related to the organization and reproduction of the urban environment. The financialization of urban development has significantly limited the potential of local communities to influence the form of cities, while strengthening the role of the local elites and the supralocal capital. The present crisis, largely born of this very developmental model, along with decades of deregulation of the welfare state have acted as a catalyst to the deterioration of living conditions and the strengthening of the democratic deficit at all levels. 


Under  these difficult circumstances, Cornelius Castoriadis’ vision for an autonomous society as well as Henri Lefebvre’s challenge to redefine and envisage the environment we live in, away from the influence of globalized capital, are becoming once again relevant. Concurrently, the extended footprint of human development on the environment, which is utterly connected to the dominant model of production, consumption and urban growth, is revealing a complementary dimension to the meaning of autonomy as an alternative form of, not only social, but also ecological management.


In July 2016 [AUTONOMA] is bringing together in Athens, renowned scholars and practitioners from the fields of Architecture, Geography, Design, and Environmental Studies, in an effort to identify Urban Autonomy as a distinct area of research and explore its potential to address current and future socio-spatial challenges. 


[AUTONOMA] is an initiative undertaken by a group of Onassis Foundation Scholars, and independent researchers, who joined their academic and professional background in Urban Design, Sustainability, Geography, and Urban Sociology to reflect on the vision of the collective city.

1-2 July 2016
onassis cultural center


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107-109 Syngrou Avenue, 11745 Athens, Greece

Information:  +30 210 900 5 800


Call for submissions


Under the three following topics, AUTONOMA is seeking proposals, studies, designs, and ideas that put local communities at the forefront of a new collective city. 

Crisis Scapes +

Self Governance

In a time of crisis when centralized governance fails to successfully address citizens’ everyday needs, local communities shape informal structures of decision making to develop solutions from the bottom up. How can these structures gain ground in order to catalyze democratic processes of decision-making in cities? What opportunities are there for creative collaboration of such groups with local governments? Could they achieve emancipation of urban transformation from hyperlocal centers based on economies of extraction and monopoly? 

Self-Resiliency + Sustainable Resource Management

Our immense human impact on the environment resides greatly on our centralized, profit-driven economies and resource distribution systems. The decentralization of natural resource management could potentially offer insights for sustainable futures. Is it possible to conceive a framework for the urban space to detach from hyperlocal and centralized resources through the development of alternative local networks? What are possible alternative scenarios for natural resource production and management that could benefit local communities?


to autonomy

Within the current global framework of economies and governance, scenarios of emancipation and empowerment of the local seem almost utopian. How can the current urban and rural communities transcend to a new form of autonomy regarding design, resource management and governance? What are some existing case studies  of local initiatives that could become drivers of change? What are the current sociopolitical and technical frameworks that will facilitate such a transition?



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