Thematic sessions

Thematic sessions
I – Heritage, social housing, the market. Everything has changed
Housing is based on the conviction that in our language and experience we obviously all know what a house is. In twenty-first century cities and territories in Europe this idea is increasingly in doubt. The state-supported forms of welfare that acted as the theoretical basis for housing policies are no longer implementable, and the distinction between public and private has altered with the advent of new technologies. It’s difficult to apply new housing measures that aspire to precede or follow a profound transformation of society. Likewise, attempts to entrust regulation only to the market have produced unsatisfactory results since the market needs precise rules, situations of urbanity and consolidated practices. The lack of direction regarding residential transformations is not compensated by conjuring up a new horizon of sustainable and resilient urbanisation. The long periods inherent in the structures of European urbanisation appear to have been based on currently inactive reasons. This triggered deep-rooted changes in our housing heritage and the way we assess its evolution, leaving ample space for experimenting with what exists, starting with a new dimensioning of housing spaces and the typification of users.

 

II – Micro houses. From existenzminimum to capsules, interiors, cells, modules, wagons
Existenzminimum marked the advent and peak of research on modern housing. It indicated the fertile nature of the minimum living space concept by linking it to the irreducibility of the rights of individuals and to their interiority which shifted from private to social and from traditional to potentially revolutionary. It is closely linked to the concepts of redistribution and artificial logic to be included in building practices and housing solutions with a view to developing generalised standards. Historical ineffectuality and the fact it was limited to unrepeatable experiences have completely altered the meaning of minimum housing, discarding social reasons in favour of dimensional and commercial criteria. The “small spheres” (a term coined by Giacomo Leopardi) surrounding the individual, in the form of hotel rooms and temporary lodgings, thus become the sign of a new economic rationale promoting the opposite of what was requested during the modern period: no longer radication in a place and a job, but the ability to move quickly and freely without constraints. This led to new living cells, capsules and cubicles as well as the revival of a repertoire marked by moments of collective activism (e.g., the This is tomorrow exhibition in London in 1956) and minority studies (fallout shelters, the futuristic plastic housing of the sixties, and the preview (not only cinematographic) of alternative housing modules, including extraterrestrial modules.

 

III – Ordinary housing and housing in the disciplinary discourse. Migrations, displacements, impermanence
In the last two decades the public authorities have ceded their role as the governing bodies of housing modes; this has gone hand in hand with a gradual tightening of regulations regarding access to citizenship and its rights. Increased migration towards European countries undoubtedly played a key role in this shift and significantly affected housing modes and spaces. This is emphasised by increasingly recurrent references to internationally defined regulations used to implement what can be defined as replacement: the housing type, considered as regularity only when examined a posteriori, is replaced by a more abstract format that is harder to refute, if not by using other formats. This generated a fluctuation involving those entitled to housing measures, one which has remained open-ended since modernity: houses for individuals acknowledged as social monads, or houses for families, in other words families now made up of small groups (of students, elderly persons, migrants, refugees) that express their solidarity differently compared to the past and establish new collaborative actions between heritage, temporary stays, income distribution, and community participation.

 

IV – Urban facts and social theory. Empirical studies and micro stories focusing on inhabiting and housing
Stories about a single house occupy a special section of literature on housing: from Histoire d’une maison by Eugéne Viollet-Le-Duc (1873) to Ein Wohnhaus by Bruno Taut (1927), and on down to the present day and near future. They are ideal examples of the way in which a house reflects the nature of the world order: an ensemble in which subjects and objects stand out and have a name. Although each monograph tackles the subject in very unique ways, all the authors made a key decision: to severely limit the object they are focusing on so as to examine it thoroughly. Housing establishes a dialectics between inside and out, between the image and the symbols to which we wish to belong, the self-representations and the outside world. Micro stories make it possible to circumscribe objects, places and periods. Like the explorations and projects of the 70s and 80s, sharp, acute observation is a way to try and retrieve a clear, univocal communication between the “little world” of the architecture (of the house) and the “big world” where it is forced to exist.