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The Imagined Community of Middle Class Mass Housing


Laurence Heindryckx

Tom Broes


This panel wants to research who were the residents that inhabited large housing schemes realized by private real estate developers throughout the twentieth century. Were these twentieth-century developers mainly producing a generic residential stock that could sooner or later meet any demand, whether truly residential or speculative in nature – or did they actively imagine that these new estates would foster a sense of ‘community’ beyond the individual household? To what extent did the future community of inhabitants co-determine the project developers’ choices for a specific housing typology and vice versa, both directly and implicitly? This panel tries to shed light on the question what kind of residents or communities real estate developers had in mind when building and selling their projects, ranging from solitary towers as vertical allotments to integrated urban development schemes. In short, what kind of (urban) society was imagined?

Furthermore, we want to investigate how these Middle Class Mass Housing Complexes related to the dominant housing policies in various countries. What role did the public sector play in determining the middle class residents of these complexes? Social housing complexes are characterised by explicit reformist socio-democratic choice towards lower income residents. The access to public housing was typically monitored by the state via various administrative conditions, such as income restrictions. However, a liberal approach of private ownership shaped a community in MCMH which is less explicitly defined and remains under-researched to date. It needs a different theoretical framework and opens up opportunities for a different research approach.

The session is interested in papers that experiment with terminology, concepts and methodological aspects of this ‘Imagined Community of Middle Class Housing’. More specifically, the session would welcome studies ranging from the ‘lived histories’ of inhabitants to ‘oral history research’ of personnel of development firms, in search of the the realities that where both produced and constructed by these housing developers.

Short bio

Laurence Heindryckx (1992) 

Graduated as engineer-architect in 2016 at Ghent University. She worked as an urban designer at the Research Laboratory for Urbanism of Ghent University, collaborating to the Flood risk Management Plan of the Dender region. In 2018, she participated as an academic researcher at the BATir department of the Université Libre de Bruxelles, researching the complementary professional roles awarded to or taken up by architects and building engineers during the interwar period in Belgium. Her recent work centres on twentieth century housing development in the metropolitan nexus in the context of a doctoral project at the Department of Architecture and Urban Planning of Ghent University.

Tom Broes (1981)

Research and teaching assistant at the Department of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Ghent. After his Architecture studies at KULeuven (2004), he obtained a Master degree in Urbanism and Spatial Planning from KULeuven (2005). He later worked for URA (2006–2007) and Robbrecht&Daem architecten (2008–2009) and the Antwerp city administration where he gained expertise in urban design and planning as a member of a team that specialized in research by design (2007–2013). Currently, he is preparing a PhD on the urbanization of the Antwerp agglomeration.

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