Accepted Paper:

Viennese collaborative planning and co-housing projects: between grassroots movements and new forms of governmentalism  


Ana Ionescu (University of Vienna)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses co-housing projects in Vienna, focussing on the tension between ideas of alternative dwelling and non-governmental forms of social organization on the one hand and the state’s intention to promote such projects fostering “social sustainability” on the other hand.

Paper long abstract:

Compared to Germany, the Netherlands and other Northern European countries, Austria does not have a strong tradition of collaborative planning and co-housing projects. However, a number of such initiatives were realised in the 1980s and the early 1990s. Mostly, these projects started out as bottom-up initiatives and were understood as a critical reaction to increasing bureaucratization and the individualization of households. People usually sharing some kind of common background in terms of their religious or political views joined forces and tried to develop alternative models of dwelling and new forms of community, opposing traditionally established models of the nuclear family and seeking independence from state interventions.

Currently, collaborative planning projects are experiencing a revival in Vienna. While within the last 20-30 years it was very difficult for co-housing initiatives to find sites to build on, the introduction of social sustainability as a criterion for funding social housing has changed the premises of such projects. They are now promoted by the state, which raises new questions. One the one hand, the people involved in these projects usually understand themselves as anti-hegemonic and anti-capitalistic, on the other hand the state is developing an interest in cohousing projects as a new kind of governance mechanism.

On the basis of qualitative ethnographic research for my PhD thesis, this paper analyses how people involved in collaborative planning projects deal with this tension and how they position themselves in the context of this shifting framework.

Panel P21
Collective creativity in everyday life: civil activity between hegemonic structures and flows of ideas