/ VILLA OTIUM
The project proposes an alternative model for an urban communal villa, where tenants are completely freed from work and domestic labour.
In a society where the exchange of products and services has become the main public activity (1), people tend not to be considered as political subjects anymore, but rather producers forced to follow the mantra “faster, better, further”.
What is most striking today is that “production” is becoming more and more immaterial, to the point where work cannot be differentiated from life itself. Capitalism demands we produce knowledge, images, symbols, languages, solutions, lifestyles, and feelings, rather than just material goods. In this sense production is becoming unavoidably biopolitical (2), blurring the limit between life and work. If citizens are considered as restless producers, then cities must to be planned, managed and experienced as purely productive devices, whose main goal is to maximize economic growth according to market needs.
From this point of view, one the most radical acts of resistance against the status quo is the refusal to work—rejecting the obligation to ensure endless growth (3).
The idea of being freed from work dates back to the classical period, when the Greek and Roman leisure classes developed the concept of otium, a time of total inactivity, which encouraged contemplation, research, meditation, exercise, and leisure. Otium was a means to repurpose one’s own life. It was a form of self-regulation and personal freedom. The architectural typology that was dedicated par excellence to otium was the rural villa, conceived as a quiet and introverted place, the very antithesis of the busy and chaotic city.
Our research proposes an alternative model for an urban communal villa, where tenants are completely freed from work and domestic labour. In an almost dystopian scenario, we propose that rent from an oversized billboard would be the tenants’ only source of income. The profit generated by the ads would not be reinvested in capital accumulation, but rather used to pay off the initial investment and sustain the household. The project raises different questions such as “what would we do if we no longer had to pursue an income?” or “can we preserve our ethical integrity while fighting within and against capitalism?” (4)
1. Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998 )
2. Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, Empire, (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2000)
3. See the work of Guy Debord, who in 1953 wrote « ne travaillez jamais (never work) » on a wall in rue de Seine.
4. Pier Vittorio Aureli, The Project of Autonomy: Politics and Architecture Within and Against Capitalism (Princeton: Princeton Architectural Press, 2008)