The notion of “commons” unites open resources of any kind: natural, cultural, spatial, material and immaterial - of which ownership and access is shared. These common resources need to be maintained, as do the collection of practices that govern and preserve them. Yet Georgia‘s rapid shift to a neoliberal political system in the 1990s resulted in a new understanding of these commons - resources that are open for commodification and individualization. As finite resources, these commons need to be sustained, nurtured and managed by communities and professionals. Architects, urbanists and state institutions have a fundamental role to play in the reclamation of the commons - no more so than in Tbilisi.
The second edition of the Tbilisi Architecture Biennial, which is conceived under the name What Do We Have in Common proposes to take a closer look at the notion of commonness in our increasingly individualized and fragmented societies. After the dramatic collapse of the Soviet Union, several barely recognized countries were added to the world map. These newly born “post-socialist” states had to undergo an inevitable but painful transformation from planned to a market economy - economic transition that has been expressed in both the city‘s cultural norms and its urban fabric. A “collectively” organized society became increasingly individualized, the planned urban spaces turned into more fragmented and divided ones.
The entire process of urban and socio-economic transition seemed to forget the feeling of common space and collectivity. Spaces of common inhabitation and collective use have become predominantly infrastructural, turning into spaces of transition and uninterrupted functionality.
In our local reality the post-soviet spatial, political and social transformation has been accompanied by many new understandings and an urban vocabulary. The understanding of common space has developed into a very complex issue. By questioning the notion of the “common” we would like to address several layers of urban space in Tbilisi, and explore the internal and external, the material and imaginary, through examining the significance of the transformation processes and the consequences it has had on common space. The staircases, neighborhood patios, thresholds, roofs of the residential blocks, public parks and squares, rarely or unused public/private buildings, shared self-governed open spaces - they all belong to the beginnings of a “common” urban vocabulary that we attempt to enrich, study and research, by investigating ownership structures, “common” space transformations, everyday spatial common practices, the spaces of resistance and much more.
When we started working on our second edition of the Tbilisi Architecture Biennial we asked the question ‘what do we have in common’, and to our surprise found an answer much sooner than we anticipated. With the sudden shifts in our lives resulting from the ongoing pandemic, it has become clear that ‘we are in all this together’- nobody is spared from the effects of the virus and this has drawn us closer. Dramatic alterations to our cities and our ability to use them collectively have made clear what we really have in common, while also exposing and intensifying existing inequalities and injustices.
The impact of COVID-19 raises new questions about the role of common spaces. What is the effect of restrictions related to public spaces on society? How can we uphold a sense of community that goes beyond borders in the midst of growing nationalism? In times of closing borders, increasingly restrictive migration policies and fragile states, it is essential to examine practices of exclusion and their consequences. This includes analyzing how the new reality of a divided continent manifests itself in public spaces.
TAB is planning to turn newly emerged restrictions into opportunities and realize the Biennial almost exclusively on a virtual platform where geographic limitations become irrelevant. The reinvented Biennial aims at becoming a voice, which can be spread even further in order to reach out to more people globally. This way the event will transform itself into a “Common Architecture Biennial”, emerging from Tbilisi but attempting to propagate the concept of “togetherness” far beyond the borders of Tbilisi and Georgia.
This expanded platform will be utilized to highlight marginal perspectives on shared spaces that are frequently overlooked in professional contexts, and open virtual windows for imaginative ways for assisting each other.
Virtual space - The second edition of the Tbilisi Architecture Biennial will be carried out in a digital space where the website will become the main platform of the event. It will incorporate various media in order to support diverse formats of events. Shifting the Biennial online will ensure a wider outreach and participation on a global scale. It will become a transcontinental event, activating different places worldwide and spilling its activities beyond Tbilisi.
In parallel to being able to avoid the challenges imposed by the pandemic, the digital platform will open up many more possibilities and introduce new spaces for creativity that can implement ideas in new ways. The Biennial as a platform is conceived as a space, which will bring together all emerging works, discussions and ideas under one roof.
The TAB 2020 website will be formed by a digital building prototype, which will be slowly filled with the activities realized during the TAB 2020 and evolve into a common symbolic structure. The proposed ideas can be realized anywhere in the world, as long as they can be digitally presented through the TAB 2020 platform. The works will be available for “visiting” on the platform through live streaming during the period of biennial and later archived and made accessible on the website. Each category of activities/works will take place on a separate floor.