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Juan Miguel Gómez Duran and Nicholas Simcik Arese

Take Over a Place

Easter 2020-2021

Tuesday, 1 June 2021


Solidarity urbanism is not about the new, the original or the innovative. Rather, it is the same plural history of neighborhoods, communities, settlements, families, convites, progressive and self-built architecture, leaderships, the moms and pops next door. These are all the things that speak of cultural abundance in a collective choreography of reflection on the duty of contemporary architecture, which allows for gathering all this knowledge to build sovereignties and autonomies, meter by meter, hand by hand, and day by day, in the common space that we know as the city. In this conversation, Nicholas Simcik Arese will discuss COONVITE* - Architecture Cooperative in the city of Medellín, Colombia – with its director Juan Miguel Gómez Duran. They will talk about learning to conceive space from micro-politics, community micro-economies, solidarity, ancestral and popular knowledge, recycled materials, and non-industrialized construction details, while unlearning formalist dogmas and unfriendly visions of architecture to return to the essential as the exercise of projecting life, care, celebrating life and magnifying it.
*Coonvite is the popular term to summon the solidarity of the community to collaborate with the self-construction of things, it can be a house, a street, an aqueduct, and orchards. This methodology is the one that has built most of the local landscape, neighborhood, community and city.


Juan Miguel Gómez Duran is a designer and urban planner with experience in the development of strategic visions for the sustainable development of territories, urban renewal, urban/rural community infrastructure plans, research professor in architecture and urbanism in different universities in the country. As an activist architect he explores the production of space for the construction of citizen culture (active citizenship), promoting participatory design as the exchange of popular knowledge as a fundamental principle of social, environmental and cultural sustainability. He is currently an associate architect and director of COONVITE Cooperativa de Arquitectura based in Medellín, Colombia.

Nicholas Simcik Arese is a University Lecturer in Architecture and Urban Studies in Cambridge’s Department of Architecture and Fellow of Gonville and Caius College. He is an urban theorist, ethnographer, and architect with interest in improvised city planning, the commons, property theory, and popular notions of value and morality in the built environment. His main specialisation is in cities of the Middle East and North Africa – having conducted extensive field work in Cairo, as well as in Doha and Beirut – where he combines scholarship in anthropology and legal geography to understand how people repurpose cities built from scratch. He also researches the relationship between digital technology and evictions in Medellin, Colombia, towards developing experimental property rights arrangements.

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