Collective Grounds

Prof. Dr. Tom Avermaete
Dr. Irina Davidovici

Housing Estates and the European City, 1865–1930

This comparative history of early collective housing outlines the development of urban working-class estates in four European cities – London, Paris, Amsterdam and Vienna – focusing on the evolution of inner city residential configurations between the 1860s and 1930s. Collective Grounds investigates the interplay between social interests, political ideologies, and technologies that led to the spatial and morphological definition of housing. The shared concern with hygiene drove different interpretations of ‘health’ in different urban articulations, from the open corners of spaced-out London squares to the geometric indentations of the Parisian housing blocks; however, market and capital demands placed housing under a common logic of standardisation. Variations in political and cultural outlook opened up the scope of significant local differences: in Victorian London, the insular, standardised estates of the Peabody Trust and later LCC; in Paris, the propagation of institutionalised dwelling types (HBMs) in courtyard configurations along the ceinture périphérique; in Amsterdam, the dissolving of individual estates into a collective urbanism; and in Vienna, the ambiguously monumental Gemeindebauten expressing a new social-democratic order through the traditional courtyard typology. The comparison and visual analysis of in-depth case studies articulates common themes that open the scope of an alternative architectural theory of collective housing. By synthetising the discussion of centralised reform policies, urban pattern and housing expertise in a comparative manner, Collective Grounds reconceptualises the notion of housing as a discursive formation, creating a framework for future studies on its history and theory.

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Tom Avermaete, Prof. Dr. Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani

This research was enabled by an SNSF Marie Heim-Vögtlin fellowship 2014–2016 and a gta Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship 2016–2017.
The project will be published in 2022 with Triest Verlag under the title Common Grounds: A Comparative History of Early Housing Estates in Europe.

Housing Surveys: Housing as Collective Grounds

In the course of the Vertiefungsarbeit taught by Irina Davidovici, the students study in detail the urban configurations of late 19th and early 20th century housing projects in London, Paris, Amsterdam and Vienna. In the first semester, each student is responsible for drawing the urban and building plans of selected projects or urban areas in each city. The resulting material is used for the publication Collective Grounds: Housing Estates in the European City, 1865–1934. Irina Davidovici works closely with the students to curate the visual material for the four case study chapters. Based on the manuscript, the students propose a list of illustrations (building plans and elevations, urban plans, archival photos and documents). In the second semester, the students work in a team and develop a drawing package based on a comparison of the housing types and ground conditions in the four cities. The author is grateful to all participants. The students assume an active role in the image curation, and establish their own position regarding the necessity, legibility, and positioning of illustrations in relation to the text.

Participating students: HS 2020: Anabell Fritsches (Paris), Magdalena Hermann (Vienna), Nathalie Claussen (Amsterdam), Christa Held (London). HS 2021: Siyi Dai, Wei You (comparative studies). The work is assisted by graphic designer Nadine Rinderer and Triest Verlag publisher Andrea Wiegelmann.