Session at the European Architectural History Network Sixth International Meeting
When the large-scale architectural and planning efforts of the European welfare states were set in motion in the post-war period, easy access to high-quality green landscapes was considered as important as other pillars of welfare, such as health, education, and retirement benefits. The welfare states supported massive building initiatives that introduced a radically new model of urbanity, characterized by an abundance of green and open spaces including public parks, recreational topographies, and shared spaces on housing estates.These green open spaces, which are a constitutive part of today’s urbanized areas, were designed to foster social welfare and individual well-being for all citizens: hence, we call them welfare landscapes.
Today, the architecture and planning of the European welfare states is being re-evaluated, and is undergoing renovation projects to address physical decay, changing users and uses, new urban ideals, the need for climate adaptation, and other issues. Moreover, in light of changing welfare politics, the relevance of welfare landscapes as living heritage, their underlying ideologies and intended contributions to citizens’ lives, and the sustainability of their design are all increasingly contested. The complexly interlinked climatic, economic, political and social crises currently facing modern industrial culture’s products and workings (Latour, 2018), thus also concern the welfare landscapes. This presents us with a paradox: how can some of the European welfare states’ most optimistic projections for the sharing of space, resources and values simultaneously embody some of modern society’s most fraught concepts – including resource exploitation, gigantism, gender, the body and biopolitics, social engineering, nationalism, and ideas of human exceptionalism?
While the architecture and planning of European welfare states is an emerging theme in architectural-historical research, it has not yet been sufficiently understood from a landscape perspective. This session invites papers that explore specific histories of welfare landscapes across Europe, and that examine their current and future role, value and contestation. We also encourage papers that discuss what happens if we regard the post-war period not as an era of optimism about welfare and the common, but as a moment when the concept of welfare itself snapped into focus as a place of contestation and debate (as proposed by Kjældgaard, 2018). How was this contestation articulated and negotiated in cities and their designed landscapes? Did it consolidate welfare as a security instrument, a ballast against the volatility of culture following the Second World War’s crisis of humanism?
Henriette Steiner, University of Copenhagen
Contact : Henriette Steiner, Email : [email protected]