Reshaping large housing projects and the production of spaces  / STREAM D – Urban informality: from plan to everyday life

Organisers: Maria Anita Palumbo (EHESS/ LAU/CNRS, ENSAPLV, FR); Olivier Boucheron (ENSAPLV/LAA/LAVUE/CNRS, FR)


Between the 1950s and the 1980s housing projects where constructed around the globe embodying an idea of modernity, due to the construction technology and to the way everyday life was given shape, whether it was the habitat for a “modern way of life”, in the west, or for the collective life of the “home nouveau”, in the east. This globalized form of towers and (high-rise) blocks of social housing is interesting at a double level: as an “imposed” urbanism provoking a standardization of way of life and, at the same time, as the context of multiple forms of re-appropriation and transformations by inhabitants. In fact, from Europe to Asia, passing by Africa and North and South America, we can observe diverse “evolutions” and “hybridizations” of the same urban-architectural form reshaped by the forces of everyday practices and initiatives of ordinary citizens or communities transforming them. In the context of contemporary debate on 1) informality and the city and 2) conservation or destruction of these architectural and urban forms, attention must be paid to the genesis and comparisons of these diverse inhabitantʼs initiatives that have been and are taking place within the context of big social housing projects. We would like to focus on the process of hybridizations of such a “hard” urban model by analysing the “infra-ordinary” production of space as emancipation from the “form”, emancipation from Modernity and its ideal way of inhabiting the world.

This session seeks to critically examine the re-shaping forces of everyday practice and community appropriation of hard and standardized habitat in order to discuss this process as the place where the conflict between globalized design trends and the struggle to locally belong unfolds. Following the idea that focusing on the interaction between standardisation and differentiation is a way to reframe our understanding of urban informality, this session welcomes papers that present and examine worldwide situated case-studies of this phenomenon, particularly from a grounded, i.e. ethnographical, perspective, analysing:

  • Self-production of space such as extensions, reconfigurations, occupations of housing projects
  • Analysis of spaces “in between slabs”, that have been often left unplanned by the time of construction and has been the place of common invention and appropriation by dwellers.
  • Contemporary debate on, and process of, destruction and/or regeneration of housing project that have been object of such “informal” appropriation
  • Examining community resiliency and self-determination to take in charge the re-planning of social housing project
  • Conflict emerging between formality and informality dimension of social housing project from an everyday use perspective.

D1.1 Reshaping large housing projects and the production of spaces

Chairs: Maria Anita Palumbo (EHESS/ LAU/CNRS, ENSAPLV) Olivier Boucheron (ENSAPLV/LAA/LAVUE/CNRS)


Matteo Del Fabbro
Spatial practices and renewal policies in peripheral large housing estates A case study from Lyon

Nicolás Dino Ferme
Domestication in a social housing complex. Space, discourses and ways of inhabiting in Los Andes Municipal Neighborhood, City of Buenos Aires

Tauri Tuvikene
Can citizens govern housing estates? The case of Tallinn, Estonia

Viviana d’Auria Bruno De Meulder
Re-coding compound life: six decades of practised modernism in the Michenzani ‘Trains’ (Zanzibar)

Florina Pop
Towards a Radiography of Socialist Housing Blocks

Pascal De Decker, Pascal Debruyne, Isabelle Pannecoucke, Jana Verstraete
Making room for the middle classes. On the demolition of the Rabot towers in Ghent, Belgium

Distributed Papers 

Bénédicte Florin, Florence Troin
“Living in a Social Housing Neighbourhood in Cairo”

Marly Namur
The social housing production process inducing the disorderly urban growth in Brazil

Eduardo Meireles Carolina Maria Pozzi de Castro, José Francisco
My home my life program and setbacks for the integration of urban projects: the study of case in São José do Rio Preto (SP/Brazil)

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