Building the Common City. The Urban Experience Between Aesthetics and Politics


We live in an era during which, for the first time in history, more people live in cities than in rural areas. Cities are not just places for dwelling. As our designed environment, they shape the way we experience the world, each other and ourselves. Hence, the question how cities should look (and feel, sound, smell, etc.) like becomes increasingly relevant. And, related to that, who should determine that, on the basis of what criteria? How do planners, architects, and policy makers deal with these questions?

This research project will analyze the aesthetics of the common city, its theoretical underpinnings, and its practical implications. Its goal is to 1) develop a framework for urban aesthetics, by integrating perspectives from philosophical aesthetics, critical urban and design studies, and cognitive sciences, and 2) come up with strategies for architects, urban planners and policy makers to integrate the experience of the city dweller in their practices.

Starting out from the understanding of the city as a contemporary form of commons, i.e. a shared resource used and managed by a particular community, this research project first of all investigates the aesthetic implications of such a perspective. A city can be more or less ‘open’, it can connect or separate, include or exclude, and to different people in different degrees. In cooperation with stakeholders within the municipality of Groningen (De Unie Architecten, Hanzehogeschool, Atelier Stadsbouwmeester) we will conduct ethnographic research to critically test our framework.





Dr. T.E. Lijster

Verbonden aan

Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Faculteit der Letteren, Kunsten, Cultuur en Media


01/01/2020 tot 31/12/2020