Marson Korbi: Going Away to College

Going away to college: Living as a student from medieval university to today

A Seminar with Marson Korbi organised by the PhD Programme of the Architectural Association

on Wednesday, May 11, at 6 pm UK time

Once away from the family, for many students living and studying in a metropolis could become a nightmare experience if they could not afford the rent and university taxes or mortgages. With the rise of the new forms of cognitive capitalism, the production of knowledge and the question of education have assumed a dominant role within the city. This new paradigm of production has coincided with a new urban proletariat of students and knowledge workers. Students, as future workers, pushed from the family and persuaded from universities with the promise of becoming future self-entrepreneurs and excellent professionals are faced in reality with the concrete problematics of the housing question and the welfare state crisis.

This seminar will present a short history of education through a panorama of some of the most significant examples of student communal living from Medieval times to today. A particular focus will be given to the origins of University Colleges at Oxford and Cambridge and to the paradigmatic experience of Thomas Jefferson’s educational project in the USA, where students and professors lived, worked and studied together. In the 1950s–60s, with the rise of the capitalist university in the United States and Europe, the historical communal model started gradually to dissolve into the fragmented student housing and dormitory typology. Today, with the lack of investments from the state and its institutions in student housing, where many students choose to rent micro-apartments or single rooms in shared apartments, there are also some interesting examples experimenting communal forms of living and learning. From a contemporary perspective, arguably, student life and education, if organized and discussed collectively as social labor, and integrated within the domestic sphere, can represent a tool for emancipation and a possibility for creating new alternative welfares.


Marson Korbi is an architect and currently postdoctoral researcher at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). His research focus is related to architecture history and theory, explored through the lens of political theory and the categories of the architectural project. He earned his PhD at the Polytechnic of Bari in 2020 with a research topic on collective dwelling, and some intersections with the history of intellectual labor. Korbi coauthored the book Grand Dessein du Rationalisme with Roberto Gargiani (2021). He is also member of the architecture collective Concrete (CNCRT).

Image: Thomas Jefferson’s Plan for the University of Virginia (1817-25). This drawing was made by Jefferson accepting the modifications suggested by the architect Benjamin Latrobe to place the pavilions (professors’ villas) at the corner of the parallel wings of the University.