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Affordable housing in western Europe. Forms, typologies and paradigms through a genealogical approach. 1852-2019


The essay concerns housing as a major tool for urban regeneration and for experiment in architecture. Within this larger research scope, this paper aims to explore some issues linked to contemporary European processes of urban regeneration through housing in a genealogical approach. At first, will be evocated the initial European typological evolution of affordable housing, outlining the early development of the urban working-class housing estate in Paris, and London . The discussion of the two main paradigms elaborated at that foundational stage will focuses the appearance of the open block for mixed-use housing at the very end of the 19th century. Then, the article will shortly engage with the late Modern Movement housing, after haveing evoked the seminal Unité d’Habitation, conceived by Le Corbusier in the middle of the 20th century, which stands as the most significant worldwide prototype of the Super Block paradigm, and that extremizes the internalizations of shared functions to compose an autonomous cell, independent as indifferent regarding the surrounding city. These themes and projects will be engaged within the theoretical framework and social organization principles corresponding to each of them. The paper will then focus on some urgent issues that link some further projects with some main topics of contemporary housing in Europe. The dramatical changes in the general conditions that made mass housing a major urban shaper during the 20th century, today result in the need of enlarging the spectrum of factors that came into play, including the shrinking conditions of mass production, economies, demographics, and the impact of the urgent issues dealing with climate and energetic supply. In conclusion, some insights will be shared to address new issues when approaching affordable housing within a realistic urban future paradigm, dealing with sustainability requirements, and socio-political challenges as the main topics that today permeate a whole transformed stage.