As two architects seeking new housing types in response to the contemporary ways of living and working in our European cities in crisis, we went to visit one of the most relevant projects that deal with this current issue. The unMonastery project located in the unique urban context of Matera offers both a co-living/co-working prototype and an urban infrastructure for the development of several innovative social projects (environmental, urban, and educational).
Next to the Matera 2019 administrative building, we stayed by the devoted typical dwelling space in Sassi, and shared the unMonks’ life for 39 hours. 39 hours of intense co-dining, co-sleeping, co-napping, co-dancing and co-working sessions with the unMonks and some of their collaborators.
Before coming we knew already how inventive and smart was this original approach of social innovation and work in our current European cities. But by living there, we got to understand the actors and the scenery of such an exemplary experiment.
These ordinary people (unmarginal, unextreme, unwithdrawned) and yet unordinary (independent workers, well connected nomads, devoted human beings) are sharp and sensitive enough to display a lucid vision on our society. Their attractive collaboration is even sponsored by the city of Matera in order to work on its future innovation. We can even admit the process serves a more global prospective vision.
As for the built space they occupy and its urban location, it may have been many other options, but the first prototype found its fitted environment here in Matera, in the social context of this small city (candidate for the 2019 European capital of culture), and in these historical troglodyte spaces: where the light dispersed by the high vaults provides a right atmosphere for work, the unhierarchical clustered spaces promote freedom of co-habiting, the large and round rooms enable variety of space organisation and uses, the rooms’ direct connections to the public path and the public terraces open onto the city, and where the 5 minutes walking distance to the city centre includes the unMonastery in the urban system.
Cities and citizens should realise the benefit of such temporary workshop on our society and its environment. And at least, if the last don’t take part, we hope they inspire of such initiatives to be creative in such crisis context. We wish the unMonastery prototype would colonize other urban situations to foster our society development.
Marie-Charlotte Dalin et Julia Tournaire.