Delsante, Ioanni and Bertolino, Nadia (2017) Urban spaces’ commoning and its impact on planning: a case study of the former Slaughterhouse Exchange Building in Milan. Der Offentliche Sektor - The Public Sector, 43 (1). pp. 45-56. ISSN 1563-4604

Thanks to several foundational contributions (De Angelis 2010; Hardt and Negri 2009; Harvey 2012; Ostrom 1990), the topic of urban commons has recently gained much interest, as indicated by a number of publications and international conferences (Dellenbaugh et al., 2015). While these have variously analysed the topic in relationship to its fundamental elements, this paper further investigates the relationship between urban commons and planning and local governance processes (Muller 2015). On 5 May 2012, the artists’ collective M^C^O (henceforth Macao) drew public attention to the massive number of unused and vacant spaces in Milan by squatting in the iconic Galfa Tower, a private property that had been abandoned since 1996. This event, recalling ideals and actions of the social centres that flourished during the 1980s and 1990s in Italy, represented the first public manifestation of the complex and hidden scenarios of the social movements animating the cultural life of Milan. Due to their intimate awareness of urban spaces (Molinari 2012), these artist-led informal initiatives have been able to stand opposite to globally oriented political choices and could thus be interpreted as symbols of community values and local resistance. Symbolically, squatting in the Galfa Tower served to shine a light on the need for a radical change in urban policies regarding the reuse of the massive patrimony of abandoned sites in towns, which could accommodate un-revealed spatial and social needs (Valli 2015).
Unlike the current planning tools and practices adopted by the City Council of Milan (Oliva 2001), Macao’s activists developed and proposed the Constituent City manifesto (Macao 2015), which sought to guarantee that vacant and abandoned properties within metropolitan Milan, whether privately or publicly owned, could be directly managed by self-organised groups of citizens. In their alternative proposal, the Macao activists were striving for the possibility for these self-organised communities to manage the available spaces for non-profit purposes through public assemblies.
Starting from these premises, the paper interrogates the issue of how urban commoning can challenge conventional planning procedures. Using a case study of the former Slaughterhouse Exchange Building (henceforth SEB) in Milan, also squatted in the by Macao movement, the paper seeks to identify the mutual influences between commoning practices, local governance and planning policies.
Drawing on these insights, we conclude by offering a reflection on the roles that commoning practices may have in defining innovative governance and planning processes.

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