Lecture: “A Tale of Housing Growth: From a suburban utopia to an ethnically diverse community”

Housing and homeownership have always been regarded as media of social control. During the nineteenth century, European company towns were built not only to provide better living conditions to the workforce, but also to alleviate the tensions between political authorities, industrialists and people. Ownership was also part of a ‘housing reform’ that aimed to bring social balance and moralise the working class. A century later, Modernism followed suit, offering another way of building society through housing at a mass scale. Failing to deliver its promises, it gave social housing a bad name. Today the global economic crisis, the immigration waves and refugees’ displacement have once again intensified the question of housing. While there is a worldwide housing shortage, large-scale projects are being demolished. Furthermore, the real estate debt and new shared living habits signal for a further restructuring of society via housing, this time away from the ideals of homeownership.

This lecture discusses housing reform and its outcomes through the lens of the 19th century Cité Ouvrière in the city of Mulhouse, France. Cité Ouvrière was the first mass factory-housing to give workers access to property. The study looks at the evolution of the cité and its relationship to the city from 1853 to the current day, seeking to reveal a set of characteristics which were part of the original conception and design but also contributed to its development as an exemplary model of the Industrial and Post-Industrial era. Most evidently, Cité Ouvrière has been incrementally transformed from a socially reformist model and repetitive suburban scheme to an ethnically diverse and spatially sustainable city quarter. The houses were provided by the industrialists, designed by architects, yet lived and adapted by the workers enabling them to shift from being passive consumers of housing goods and services to active participants in the life and ageing of their homes.

Fani Kostourou is an architect, urban designer and academic. She studied architecture at the National Technical University of Athens and holds a MAS in Urban Design from ETH Zürich and a MRes in Spatial Design: Architecture & Cities from UCL London.

Over the last years, Fani has taught at the Welsh School of Architecture, the Bartlett’s School of Architecture and Development Planning Unit. She has also been a visiting critic at The Bartlett, AA, ETHZ, Kingston University, and University of Westminster, organised international workshops, lectured and exhibited in Europe, Asia and America. In 2017, she joined the MIT Department of Architecture and Computation as a visiting researcher and participated in the EU-funded Future Architecture Platform activities in Slovenia, Serbia, Kosovo, and Ukraine. The same year, she was awarded a Fellowship from the Higher Education Academy in the UK. Her design work has featured in publications such as Minha Casa, Nossa Cidade (Ruby Press, 2014) and group exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (2014-15), Museu de Arte do Rio (2014), X São Paulo Biennale (2013), 15th Venice (2016) and XX Chilean (2017) Architecture Biennales among others.

Fani currently finishes her EPSRC-funded PhD thesis at the Bartlett School of Architecture, runs a BSc Year 3 design unit at the Welsh School of Architecture, and works as a researcher at the Theatrum Mundi organisation.

Lecture is organised with support from the British Council Ukraine.


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