(Urban) Landscape: Session at the European Association for Urban History Conference: Cities in Motion 2020

Urbanisation after the second World War has been mostly seen as internalisation of American and North-European practices. Focusing on the design/production of state-led large-scale housing schemes during the Cold-War period in the context of non-western countries, this session asks how the socio-political changes triggered a paradigm shift in the architecture of dwelling, there.Session content: Urbanisation after the second World War has been mostly seen as internalisation of American and North-European practices: the so-called ‘West’. This session focuses on the design and production of public housing, in the non-Western context of the Cold-War period: the so-called 'Urban Global South'. As a global phenomenon to provide affordable solution for accommodating urban poor, public housing emerged in various underdeveloped areas of the world and under different socio-political regimes. Accelerated under the Cold War geopolitics, this period of ‘post-war corporatist compact’, as Kevan Harris called it, saw both the US and Soviet hegemony infiltrating multiple underdeveloped regions of the world, sponsoring state-led projects in the forms of ‘developmental aids’ such as technical/economic assistance and knowledge transfer. It was in this period that, public housing became instrumental in state-led reforms and modernization schemes. Simultaneously, international organisations, such as World Bank, the UN and the Comecon, began to promote public housing strategies under the supervision of transnational advisors and experts, to tackle the issues of related to housing shortage. It comes, thus, as no surprise why the geopolitics of the Cold War brought about multiple forms of international cooperations and triggered ample exchange of specialist knowledge between experts, which assisted in the provision of housing. These exchanges can be seen particularly in the context of developing countries like Mongolia, India, Iran, Turkey, Israel, Algeria, Ghana, Morocco, Ethiopia, Argentina, former Yugoslavia, and Venezuela, among others. This session studies how the process of modernisation in the context of non-western European countries affected and was influenced by the architecture of public housing; and focuses on the roles architects performed therein. It asks to what extent changes in the socio-economic and political structure of these countries under the Cold War geopolitics triggered a paradigm shift in both the design of public housing and the architecture of dwelling, and examines various roles performed by both local and transnational actors in public housing development. It questions how local architects contributed to resist or promote changes in the architecture of dwelling, and negotiated the imported models, knowledge, and construction techniques for their housing solutions.

  • Spokesperson: Mohamad Sedighi, TU Delft
  • Co-organizer(s): Nikolay Erofeev, Oxford University
  • Keywords: Public housing | The Cold War | Non-Western modernisation
  • Time period: Contemporary period
  • Topic(s): Architecture and urbanism | Political
  • Study area: More than one continent