Presentation / Talk

WHY CAN’T WE LIVE TOGETHER? Stockholm – Vienna’s large courtyard blocks

The purpose of this paper is to look back on some valuable accomplishments at the beginning of the XX century, built in Stockholm (1916-1930) and Vienna (1919-1933). Far from a mere process of revising history, those first dwelling attempts demonstrate how housing turned into a core-concern from that time. Selected case studies of the two cities – analysed through original items and the re-drawings of plans done by the authors – provide a clear framework to retrace the origins of an emphasis on building community units. Planning policies and dwellings responded to the accelerated metropolitan growth and acute housing shortage. Housing started to become a public utility, part of a wider and multifaceted social view as well as considered fundamental elements for the construction of the city. The attention and the responsibility of planners, architects, co-operatives, and politicians went to poor social ladders. Secchi identifies in those European town plans a common ground in the search for adequate forms of living together and an expression of democratic ideals. Besides broadening the limited understanding of these instances, we examine their inspiring and still convincing qualities concerning morphology and spatial sequences. Large court blocks - "Storgårdskvarteret" in Swedish and "Höfe" in German - interact with the irregularities of the topography and the surrounding urban fabric. The results show two sides of the same coin: a peculiar synthesis of Sitte and Unwin’s theories, which presents matching points. Although, the two experiences were designed almost one hundred years ago, they offer key suggestions for today’s housing initiatives. Indeed, in Europe we have recently been observing the progressive crisis of the social concept and architectural connotation of “collective house”. As Elias and Bauman claim, in our individualistic society it becomes even more crucial the role of the collective dimension of the city and common living.

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