The Exhibition

Commons & Communities

How can art drive community building? How can art empower communities? And more crucially: how can art, architecture, and design meet the challenges facing our communities today?

With this exhibition, we seek answers. Artists and architects, sociologists and city planners, and theorists and practitioners across disciplines explore new projects, strategies, and tools for understanding and using common goods, values, places, and spaces we share.


land or resources belonging to a community


a group of people living in the same place


the practice of providing common rights to land use

Today, the question of how to handle and preserve our common resources is becoming more and more urgent. Climate changes, population growth, financial mining of ‘floating’ or shared resources, and changing economies and production are not only altering our common resources but the premises on which our communities are based.

Every day, we all share multiple resources. As humans, we share natural resources such as the air we breathe and the water we drink. As residents of cities, large and small, we share our open spaces and interspaces, architecture, parks, squares, and streets. All these resources are shared by a community, making up a sort of ‘commons’.

However, by virtue of their nature, these common resources can be destroyed, abused, misused, and overused if we who share these resources neglect to develop and preserve them for the future. They decrease if they are not cared for or utilized responsible – at the expense of the communities themselves. And, finally, the nature of these common resources confronts us with an uncomfortable question: who has access to our ‘common’ resources – are they really common to all?

On the other hand, there are fundamental elements that we have in common in our society, elements that do not decrease or diminish the more we ‘use’ them but, rather, grow by sharing: Art and culture. Art and culture – like knowledge – are not exclusive unless we make them so. Art and knowledge only bloom and expand the more we, as a community, share and take part and make an effort to make them inclusive. This is an apposite task for art, architecture, and design.


Ellen Braae

Professor of Landscape Architecture Theory and Method at University of Copenhagen. Chairperson of the Danish Art Foundations Committee for Architecture. Heading the research group ‘Landscape Architecture and Urbanism’. Her current research focus on ‘welfare landscapes’ and the role of public space. She is the author of Beauty Redeemed: Recycling Post-Industrial Landscapes (2015) and (with H. Steiner) Routledge Research Companion to Landscape Architecture (2018).

Commons & Communities

The question of commons and communities and their interdependent relationship may seem simple – in a sense, almost commonsensical – when seen from the distance of theoretical abstraction. Yet, the precondition for a sustainable community is access to sustainable common resources that can, in fact, sustain the community. And vice versa. The precondition for a sustainable common resource is a strong community that is actually able to preserve and develop it for the future.

However, in practice, the relationship is complex. It poses a series of difficult problems. The potential limit of the commons confronts us with the limit of the community itself. Whom do we consider as part of the community? And who controls the access to and the management of our common resources?

These questions expose the political, economic, and cultural dimensions of commons and communities. We cannot reduce this to a question of how we design our cities, our public spaces, or the places that we inhabit. We must challenge the very preconditions that ‘allow’ or limit us to construct our cities and public spaces in a certain way and to produce art in a certain way.

New ideas for how to live together and new ways of interacting in our communities can be developed – through art, architecture, and design. These new ideas may show the way to reform political, economic, and cultural conditions.

This exhibition, Commons and Communities, asks whether art, architecture, and design can provide answers to some of the challenges we face today in our cities and communities. Let us engage in conversation and share ideas and possible solutions, person to person, community to community, city to city, country to country. And let us start right here. In Commons and Communities.

The Exhibition

The exhibition too is a resource made to be shared and developed further in common. It derives from a larger Danish initiative conceptualized and encouraged by the Danish Art Foundation | Committee for Architecture 2018-2021 around the theme of “Commons and Community”. The initiative involved the first Danish contribution to the 2019 Chicago Architectural Biennial, the Danish contribution to the 2021 Venice Architectural Biennial, as well as a Travel and Talk program in 2019 for 30 architects and artists from Chicago, Detroit, and Denmark.

The exhibition presents artistic practices and projects that are centered on communities and common resources. The exhibition consists of elements at three different levels: Texts and statements, Large case studies and a series of Short case studies, all of which focus on specific artistic project and practices. It builds on the globally most commonly-shared format, the paper A format, and the fact that A3 printers of high quality have become more affordable. The various components of the exhibition can be increased and decreased in number, enabling the exhibition as a whole to shrink or expand to fit different exhibition spaces, places and local contexts. Most important, however, is the exhibition’s adaptive capacity to grow the more people take part in it. New local entries can be added to the series of Short case studies at each new place it is exhibited. It is our hope that the possibility of adding local projects will allow for a more open dialogue, meaningful to the local communities where the exhibition is put on display. Furthermore, it is our hope that it can help to connect different communities and projects, by accumulating more knowledge and new examples of artistic practices and projects working with commons and communities – as a growing common open resource in itself.

Ellen Braae

Professor of Landscape Architecture Theory and Method at University of Copenhagen. Chairperson of the Danish Art Foundations Committee for Architecture. Heading the research group ‘Landscape Architecture and Urbanism’. Her current research focus on ‘welfare landscapes’ and the role of public space. She is the author of Beauty Redeemed: Recycling Post-Industrial Landscapes (2015) and (with H. Steiner) Routledge Research Companion to Landscape Architecture (2018).

Cape Town, South Africa

Commoning for Urban Justice

Learning from the Victoria Mxenge Women, Cape Town, South Africa.

Paris, France & London, UK

R-Urban: Commoning Resilience

R-Urban is a bottom-up strategy based on networks of urban commons and collective hubs supporting civic resilience practices initiated by atelier d’architecture autogérée (aaa).

Chicago, USA

Sweet Water Foundation

Sweet Water Foundation’s work is a direct response to the everyday chaos of economic hardships, violence, perpetual poverty, and systemic racism that pervades these communities.

New Zealand

Common Space

Social art practices often bring ideas and practices to land that have been floating in the pre-public imagination, in experimental and playful ways. These practices include occupations of land and space.

Esbjerg, Denmark

6705 Project

Tina Ratzer has specialized in color workshops as a way to engage the community in creative processes.

Snested, Denmark

Playing with Lines

Artist Thomas Wolsing has created a garden for the senses on an empty site in a village in Thy.

Malmö, Sweden


On a cold November day in 2018, approximately 2000 people visited Lokstallarna in Malmö, Sweden and experienced an area full of cultural activities.

Kolding, Denmark

Monument of Stitches

Monument of Stitches - A Social Art Project was created in 2015 and consists of several knitted triangles, created by 700 people knitting side by side.

Detroit, USA

Ride It Sculpture Park

Power House Productions is operated by long-term residents of the Davison/Conant area, who view “engagement” with other neighborhood residents not as an added task but an essential component of living here.

Chicago, USA

Cabbage Patch

The first official Danish contribution to the Chicago Architecture Biennial in 2019.

Chicago, USA

McKinley Park

The McKinley Park Community Play Garden is an engaging and innovative nature play garden located adjacent to the McKinley Park Library, southwest of downtown Chicago.



A new countryside?

Memphis, USA

Tom Lee Park

The new Tom Lee Park transforms a significant piece of Memphis’ Mississippi river front into a signature public space, where community life can flourish along the water’s edge.

Detroit, USA

Avis + Elsmere

‘Inside Southwest Detroit’ is a collection of initiatives that promote youth and community development.

Vestervig, Denmark

Field of Stairs

Camilla Nørgård has collected materials and stories in cooperation with local residents and formed a “landscape of stoops”.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Black Box Garden

The cultivation of an urban wasteland in the heart of Copenhagen.

Detroit, USA

Detroit Cultivator

A 6-acre landscape that combines food production, cultural activity, and civic assets to strengthen the social and economic fabric of the community.

Islands Brygge, Copenhagen, Denmark
Stacked Living Units
Aarhus, Denmark
Læssøesgade School
The World
Skill Fusion
Beijing, China
Chicago, USA
Aarhus, Denmark
Copenhagen, Denmark
“This Way”
Vanløse, Copenhagen, Denmark
About Appreciation and Care
Copenhagen, Denmark
Into the Wild
Chicago, USA
Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative
Roskilde, Denmark
Museum of Contemporary Art