Research Project
Cooperative Conditions: A Primer on Architecture, Finance, and Regulation

Research Project
Anne Kockelkorn and Susanne Schindler with the students of the MAS

Research Station for the Venice Architecture Biennale 2021: How Will We Live Together?

Anne Kockelkorn, Susanne Schindler and Rebekka Hirschberg discuss the preliminary outcomes of “Cooperative Conditions” at gta Invites, November 11, 2020.

Students in conversation with Raphael Frei and Andreas Sonderegger, pool Architekten, February 28, 2020. Photo: Sanna Kattenbeck

Over the past twenty years, building on a century-old tradition, housing cooperatives in Zurich, Switzerland have realized highly experimental architecture for living together, challenging established notions of what and who constitutes a household: apartments for 50 or more individuals, clusters of micro-units, live-work apartments, and short-duration rentals, to name just a few.

These experimental forms of living together have gained international recognition in recent years. But what, exactly, makes this architecture possible? Who owns the land, on what terms, and due to which historical developments? Why are Zurich’s cooperatives, all non-profit in perpetuity, considered reliable lenders even to conventional banks? What is the interest rate on the mortgage and what its duration? These are key questions if we are to envision an alternative for living together in a world ever more strongly characterized by financialized investment in real estate and a resulting rise in socio-economic inequality.

The goal is to better understand the interplay and mutual dependency of the architecture of cooperative housing and its political and economic regulation. By looking at the form of architecture and the city in conjunction with the history of this particular political economy of housing, we hope to articulate scopes of action for architects today.

The resulting installation (Station) at the Venice Architecture Biennale—on view in the Arsenale in the section “As New Households”—will articulate these realms of action in graphic and textual form. The installation will involve a vertical surface. In this way, Biennale visitors will be able to see connections between the eight dossiers, each dedicated to explaining one financial, legal or regulatory instrument and its interplay with architecture and social space. Visitors will be able to learn from Zurich’s Cooperative Conditions for other, and very different, settings around the world. The results will also be made accessible on a website and in book form.

Cooperative Conditions is made possible through the generous support of: gta Institute, Department of Architecture (D-ARCH), Ernst Göhner Stiftung, Pro Helvetia, Allgemeine Baugenossenschaft Zürich (ABZ), Wohnbaugenossenschaften Schweiz (WBG).

This research project is being produced by the students of the MAS ETH in History and Theory of Architecture as part of a research seminar.
Students: Kadir Asani, Nina Baisch, Hanae Balissat, Anna Derriks, Sébastien El Idrissi, Armin Fuchs, Lale Geyer, Rebekka Hirschberg, Sarah Hummel, Sanna Kattenbeck, Abbas Mansouri, Bianca Matzek, Olga Rausch, Gina Rauschtenberger, Kristin Sasama, Kana Ueda, Alexia Zeller.
Projekt management: Rebekka Hirschberg.
Grafic design: Monobloque