School of Commons?

Acoustic tests using fired clay from Jan Hofer’s LEARN project “The New New Material”. Photograph: Nicolas Duc.

Marea Hildebrand, what is School of Commons?

School of Commons (SoC) is a grassroots project for collaborative and self-organised learning practices — and open to everyone. SoC aims to promote self-organised education and research in three laboratories: LEARNs (Learning Environment and Research Nucleus), a residency programme named Study Lab, and the theory-oriented Studio. SoC maintains a self-critical attitude that remains open to change and evaluation. We understand self-organised education as a collective enterprise whose participants jointly determine which form of practical research corresponds to their interests. Collaboration, participation and reciprocal exchange are central values of SoC. We encourage an interdisciplinary and open-ended attitude, which allows projects to develop flexibly and across disciplinary boundaries. SoC values openness and impartiality to the content, methods and forms of the outcomes generated, and creates space for regular joint reflection. We are committed to fostering a learning environment in which all participants become active learners and co-producers of the SoC programme.

First called into being in 2017 by students of Zurich University of the Arts, today SoC offers guidance, resources and support to experimental forms of knowledge production and peer-learning. SoC is a space for experimentation, an environment in which forms of learning and teaching are experimented with and in which non-standard methods and approaches can be developed, implemented and investigated. One example is Jan Hofer’s project “The New New Material.” His LEARN tried to rediscover a long-forgotten sound-absorbing material made from fired clay. To this end, he searched for the best possible material composition and the most suitable production process.

In this section, experts from around ZHdK offer brief reflections on key terms and concepts in the arts and culture. The steadily expanding glossary is available online at:
Marea Hildebrand ( is co-initiator of School of Commons, which she runs together with Josephine Baan and Philipp Spillman. She is currently working towards a Master’s in Transdisciplinary Studies at Zurich University of the Arts.
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