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Atelier d’Architecture Autogérée

Atelier d’Architecture Autogérée (AAA), is a collective of architects who transform urban spaces through collaborative, localized endeavors. The collective conducts explorations, actions, and research concerning urban mutations and cultural, social, and political emerging practices in the contemporary city.

Founded in 2001 by Franco-Romanian architects Constantin Petcouand and Doina Petrescu, AAA stages creative urban interventions that involve neighborhood residents in re-imagining unused, derelict spaces; for example, establishing a community hub in a pass-through between buildings or planting a self-sufficient vegetable garden in an area between high rises formerly used as a place to throw refuse. AAA acts as a platform for collaborative research and action on the city and much of their work is carried out with other specialists, artists, researchers, and institutional partners such as universities, arts organizations, and NGOs, as well as the eventual users of their spaces. Whilst the founding members of aaa remain, the practice operates as a collaborative network that forms around each project.

In a project titled Rhyzom, the team started with a survey of models of sustainable community living around Europe. After mapping examples of co-housing, small-scale agriculture, and cottage industry, they translated their observations into workshops in green roof design, rainwater collection systems, waste recycling, food growing, and handicrafts.

Taking their findings further, AAA developed R-Urban, a prototype for sustainable city life on the outskirts of Paris. In the working-class suburb of Colombes, the team created a living laboratory for the local residents to produce their own food supply and recycle waste, closing the local loops of consumption and production. The multi-year plan included ecological construction, urban agriculture, a recycling program, and cooperative housing.

While AAA has become an engine for engaging citizens in shaping their own cities through experimentation and renewal of derelict urban space, Doina has thoughtfully dovetailed this work into her own pedagogy, exposing students to radical ideas of how faculty, students, and communities can deconstruct social hierarchies and work together to create better communities. Currently, she serves as the Head of Research at the University of Sheffield School of Architecture. 

We had a chance to speak with Doina about her philosophy, of both work and teaching, on Social Design Insights. Join co-hosts Eric Cesal and Karen Kubey as they explore new directions in design teaching.

And don’t forget to check out Doina’s recommendations for further study!

74 | Co-Producing Design Education


Social Design Insights would like to thank all those who make our weekly show possible: Baruch Zeichner, our Producer and Sound Engineer, Donna Read, for producing our video content, and Leah Freidenrich, Director of the Curry Stone Foundation. Our theme music for 2018 is "Alright With Me" by Reggie Young from his album "Young Street." The break music is "Arctic Cascades" by Sunset In The 12th House from their album "Mozaic."