‘The Grand Domestic Revolution—User’s Manual’ (GDR) investigates the domestic space and its (changing) use through a variety of methods and disciplines, traversing the fields of art, design, architecture, urban planning, activism and theory. A number of artists and other practitioners contribute to this endeavour. Residents from 2009-2011 include Sepake Angiama, Paul Elliman, and Doris Denekamp who utilized neighbourhood and online research to create prototypes and interventions around the theme of (Green) Cooperativsm. Wietske Maas and Travis Meinolf experimented with Home Production; while 'interor' infrastuctural interventions for the furniture, library and hallways were created by ifau & Jesko Fezer, Mirjam Thomann and Graziela Kunsch. Current themes and residents from February–October 2011 include Kyohei Sakaguchi and Kateřina Šedá who will each investigate forms of usership in architectures; home and housing rights with Maria Pask and Nazima Kadir; the question of invisible and domestic labour taken up by Werker Magazine; Agency will continue its deliberations on copyright issues of domestic THINGS (gardens and textiles); and keywords in relations to food service work will be workshopped with Xu Tan. Parallel to this, the Read-in activity continues. Initiated by artist Annette Krauss and theatre maker, Read-in is an open reading group inhabiting a different neighbour’s home for every session.



The GDR library constitutes the backbone of our ongoing ‘living research’ and thus grows over time. The library offers points of engagement with the project and consists of different research materials such as books, articles, images and DVDs (artist’s video, films) that are available for viewing when visiting the apartment. The first installment was done by the GDR team and was later adapted by Sao Paulo-based artist Graziela Kunsch who suggested that the GDR team create thematic selections.



'The Grand Domestic Revolution-User's Manual' is a long-term project developed as Casco’s contribution to 'Utrecht Manifest: Biennial for Social Design'. The project deals with the evolutionary and collaborative process of “living” research in the contemporary domestic and private sphere – particularly in relation to the spatial imagining (or the built environment). It aims at re-articulating while exercising the notions of the social, the public and, eventually, the commons.




Since August 2010, the GDR team have undertaken research in order to connect with the local neighbourhood on questions relating to peoples’ social conditions and material environments. Questionnaires, interviews, and conversations are the methods used to explore the themes and problems addressed in GDR, such as self-organised governance, co-operative living, and spatial organisation in and from the domestic sphere.

INTERVIEW WITH SOP – cooperative daycare

INTERVIEW WITH SOP Vlaamse Broodhuis, Utrecht Conducted by Maiko Tanaka and Elsa-Louise Manceaux (23 September 23, 2010)

In our interview with Ron and Mikkie of AAGU and International Mobile Peoples' Kitchen told us about a cooperative daycare project that began in the 80's in Utrecht which was still in operation today. So we contacted the parents who currently run SOP to find out more about how this grassroots collective parenting functions and strives for today.

Maiko: Could you tell us about why you personally decided to become a member of the SOP participatory daycare?

Anne-Sophie: We moved to Utrecht and we were looking for daycare for our second child. I didn’t have a social network yet in Utrecht and my parents live in Germany. The parents of my husband were deceased. We have another child who was 6 at that time, and we found out about SOP through members who had their children at the same school. We got in touch with them and soon they approached us to get the SOP process started including getting to know SOP and what it is about. We decided to do it. My main motivation has always been, and still is, the formula that all partners participate. This concept of parent participation daycare is not new, but in practice it is mostly run by women. At SOP, both partners—we also have a lesbian couple so there is another woman,— including all fathers participate. And I think that is the most important thing. You don’t have that at any other daycare: men taking care of young babies and playing with the kids. We have children from 0 to 12 years so we're not only a daycare but also an after-school care. We have a very heterogeneous group of kids.

M: Was there an application process involved? How did the members decide to accept you in the group?

A: In our experience—once you're part of it and you know how it works—it 's mainly about commitment. If you and your partner are willing to make that commitment, and once the group knows people can commit fully, this is what it’s all about. What is important in the process, is that you come by, you drop by 3, 4, 5 times, you witness how it works and meet the parents involved. The process is very implicit, a feeling kind of thing.

Elsa: Once you are committed, how much time do you need to invest into the place? How is the work separated between you and other people?

A: We're about 35 to 40 parents, it can vary but that’s the amount of parents we need. Every parent or partner (we also have a number of single people that we can allow and if we have enough parents, because we want to support single people too) has half a day per week. Everybody is involved. There are no “oh I have to work” or “I'm going on holidays” or “I'm sick”. There always has to be a replacement, and that works. That’s the basic commitment. We have 3 parents in the morning and 4 in the afternoon. There are also regulations from the official GGD, which is the national healthcare service, that we follow but these regulations have been changing throughout the years and are becoming stricter all the time. We must have a first aid diploma for childcare; we have to prove that we don't have a criminal record, apply security rules in the playground and so forth. In that sense we are an official organization.

M: But it wasn’t always as official in the beginning?

A: I don't think that when it started about 31 years ago, it needed to be. Slowly we applied for subsidies and needed to become part of the official system. It is an evolving thing.

E: So it is recognized as an official crèche?

A Yes, which also means that we get money back from the state. Because daycare is subsidized in general and ours is of course much cheaper because we do the work ourselves. The only thing is that we have to pay is rent, food, diapers, activities, but no staff.

E: How many kids are being taken care of at the moment?

A: In the morning there are about 12 to 14 children up to the age of 4, and then in the afternoon about 40 kids but usually there is a maximum of 30 percent.

M: Does the job require a different kind of attention in terms of caring for children of a variety of ages, as different from school environments where the developmental levels are more structured defined?

A: You have to take into account that most children have been there since the age of 3-4 months. All the parents grow along with their kids and will ideally stay at the SOP until their youngest child is 12 years old, although once your youngest child is 8 you are allowed to do just one shift every other week. It’s a long term commitment. But we all know those kids very well since we have been growing with them. The kids know each other and they all go to the same school, so there is sort of a natural structure. We always hear comments when we have babies coming in or when parents first come: “how can they get attached if they’re cared for by 40 different people?” The amazing thing is that they adapt very quickly. We have a day to day rule: all parents meet for coffee in the morning after taking their kids to school until 9:15, after which those parents who are not working at SOP that day leave. The general schedule follows as a trip to the toilet, eating fruits, and if the weather is nice then we go outside otherwise we do an activity. At 11:30 there is lunch and at 13.00, the second shift of children arrive and we have the small kids take a nap. So there is certainly a day-schedule but of course everyone gives it their own special character. Some parents find there are too many rules, others depend very much on the rules. The kids know the rules, but everyday is different in a sense. Every year when we decide upon the schedule— the group meets and we say “ok we're going to do this, what's important for you? What kind of activities you would like to have included?” and we take notice of what’s important for each member.

E: Is there, among the parents, a certain ideology with respect to the fact tha it’s designed to look like a home? How is the place divided?

A: We have a lot of space. We have a living room and a "rennen-lokaal" which is a running around room with lots of cushions and mattresses. Then there is a space especially for the kids who are 7 and older, where they can chill out and there is a bedroom for the small ones to sleep. Of course there is an idea that this is their second home. I'm now in my 5th year and it feels like an extended family.

M: And what about the building?

A: It’s an old school building which belongs to the City Hall for which we pay rent. There are three other participation daycare on the other side of the building but they are only for small kids, up until 4 years old. They are separate from SOP. Above are artist studios and there is dance studio as well.

E: Does SOP serve as a common model for the rest of participatory daycares in the Netherlands or is it something that is special here?

A: Utrecht has the most participative daycares in the Netherlands, Amsterdam has 2, and in total there are maybe 10. I think they are planning to open a new one at the free school, the Rudolf Steiner school here in Utrecht.

M: We touched on many aspects on what makes up SOP and how it functions: the ideology behind it, an agreement on maintaining the balance of participation and gender, the economic aspect how its supported, through subsidies and voluntary labour.

A: We have a fixed monthly amount in subsidies: 160 for the small kids and a 110 for the older ones.

M: This pays for ...

A: Rent and everything else basically. We have sort of a buffer, because we also have to pay for indoor renovations. The government only pays the renovation of the facade.

E: Wouldn’t this kind of structure be something the Government wishes to develop more?

A: It would be very good to stimulate it. Fours years ago, the law was changed and the government started to give more subsidies for daycare and also started to subsidize individual care: grandmothers, family members became eligible for subsidies. But the law wasn’t very strict so a lot of people took advantage of it: Two guys in the south of Netherlands were involved with fraud for 11 millions euros for instance. So at this point they are changing the law again and make it more strict, because it had allowed so many people to exploit it. It’s a shame that they don’t do more research before they start subsidizing. In our own place, they think we are an individual initiative, which we're not: we're an official daycare and we've been here for more than 30 years. Of course it would be good to stimulate that.

E: But it started as an individual initiative didn’t it?

A: It did start as an individual initiative: a couple of mothers who needed more time to work: its really the 70's legacy.

M: The people who referred us to SOP were part of it about 25 years ago. They are part of the anarchist anti-deportation group here in Utrecht, and so they told us about this place. At the time they felt it was part of a wider grass-roots movement.

A: Definitely, the grass-roots movement. Utrecht is quite a big alternative movement tendency, so that’s how we're initiated.

M: It is interesting because from what we've been learning through speaking with different social organizations, the Netherlands has changed a lot from the 80's to now, in terms of such activist-initated movements becoming more institutionalized. I guess we're trying to figure out what is the scenario now in relation to social change, and how does this process of negotiation between grass-roots and top-down work. This fact of negotiating with the government more, rather than taking an outside, alternative stand...

A: That’s exactly what I could confirm. In essence we're still grassroots in the way that at this point in the Netherlands, it is easier to get a place at a daycare, which was not the case when we came to Utrecht. It was hard, you had to be on a waiting list for a year, and its expensive.

M: Why is it easier?

A: Because of the change of the law four years ago, more subsidies, and it became much easier for people to open up daycare centers. As I said, the law wasn’t structured very well, so now daycares have to prove that their staff has the right education and more issues like that. After the law changed, activist groups had been greatly affected. People at the SOP have this gigantic territory outside of Utrecht where they have studios, and they have to leave within a year now. It has been an established place, and they have lots of nice activities going on, welders and ship builders, and they just all have too move. We were also threatened with having to leave the building because there is a shortage of school space in Utrecht and another school wanted to claim our space, but luckily the school moved somewhere else. In the municipal records, the building is still marked as a school space. As long as you are marked like that, it can still be reclaimed for different purposes.


Cup of tea no. #4 Floris Brekelmans, city ecologist

Perhaps cute cartoon rabbits are not so innocent after all.

Unlikely supply of 'morphine' on Nijntje square.

Well, we almost had a cup of tea if it weren’t for the sudden idea to cycle through inner city public spaces of Utrecht past some of the most wicked plant substances unbeknownst to the untrained passer-by.

Floris Brekelmans is urban ecologist and knows the vegetative and animal life of the city like the back of his hand. His research has focused on, but not limited to bats, grasshoppers, dragonflies, and the terrestrial ecology of the city and beyond. Floris lives in the neighbourhood. He stopped by the Grand Domestic Revolution and almost as soon as he had we got on our bicycles with Floris leading the way to show some of the special plant species that do well in Utrecht.

Nijntje Pleintje, down the street from GDR

We sniffed plants that smelled intensely of honey (yellow honey clover) to plants that smell on first whiff like coca-cola to the less appreciable smell of old goat-socks (sorry, I’ve forgotten their names already); to the opium poppies growing abundantly on Nijntje plein (the Dick Bruna Rabbit) and a prolific belladonna plant growing in an alleyway. Floris tells many things about the intelligence and spontaneous life of plants, the way plants cleverly manage to spread themselves beyond the borders of a cultivated garden or dropped from above in a fertile package of bird poo.

Somniferum sap (latex)

Floris will share some of his expertise on a medicinal plant tour of the Bemuurde weerd neighbourhood next Saturday 3 July. More will be posted about times and details of tour very soon.

Atropa belladonna flower. The highly toxic plant said to have been mixed with opium by witches to induce (visions of) flight

26 June 2010, 09.43 — posted by Wietske