Perhaps the most radical challenge to the idea of the house-as-property was put forth by the Swiss architect Hannes Meyer. Unlike many architects of his generation, he never designed apartments or single-family houses. Instead, Meyer's major contribution to domestic architecture was the 1924 Co-op Zimmer, designed for a nomadic worker and reduced to one single room containing only the essentials: a bed, a cupboard, and a foldable chair. Such a decision implies that, apart from for the minimum space for self-seclusion, the rest of the space – building and city – are considered as things to be shared with others.
[Hannes] Meyer may have wanted to design a contemporary version of a monk's room, in which the lack property (and thus the need to maintain such property by putting households into an economic system) realises the possibility of happiness. Co-op Zimmer reveals what could be seen as an architecture of use against architecture of property. While the latter must always be the reflection of the identity of the owner, Meyer's room is radically generic and anonymous. Precisely for this reason, it promises its inhabitant the possibility of a life liberated from the burden of household property.
Property, then, must be understood as a twofold condition that sanctions individuals to dominate others while tying these individuals to the more stable power structure – the legal, juridical and financial framework – that regulates the right to property. It is for this reason that the logic of property became more vicious and pervasive among the lower classes of society. Dispossessed people would have nothing to lose in revolting against the economic system that oppressed them if their living space had not been turned into their property.
Until the beginning of the nineteenth century one of the major threats to social order was the presence in the city and countryside of countless vagabond and homeless people. By forcing them to own their houses, the government would not only provide these people with a stable address, but would tie their interests to the economic system.
In order to work effectively, property had to become an ideology – to which architecture has made a fundamental contribution. The invention of the villa and its most affordable version – the single-family house – has proven to be the most powerful ideological support for the naturalness of property.
On the contrary, real estate has its roots in appropriation – not for the sake of use, but for the sake of domination. By transforming the household, or even simple tools, into property, one not only invests them with economic value but also utilizes them to exercise power over others who are dispossessed of these things.