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Spa-ce.net Network Conference 2022: “Future of the Traces of Modernity: Public Mass housing neighbourhoods“

Spa-ce.net Network Conference 2022

An annual Network Conference of Spa-ce.net (network joining Central and South European Universities and Research Institutes focused on Spatial Planning) under the headline “Future of the Traces of Modernity: Public Mass housing neighbourhoods“ will be held 26th-28th September 2022 in Bratislava. The conference will be joint event, co-organizing partners are Spectra, Centre of Excellence, AESOP, AESOP young academics and ECTP.

Large parts of any Central European city landscape and neighbourhoods are covered by residential areas of mass housing blocks of flats built in 1960s-1980s. These communities and settlements are often more than 30-40 years old and have become specific places with its own history, social climate and narratives. Unique and specific meta-text of almost any Central and South Eastern European city would remain unfinished without residential areas of panel blocks of flats. These areas have generated specific identity, social cohesion as well as social problems related to them. It is obvious that these urban forms failed to deliver the unique „tomorrow´s quality of life“ as once declared but on the other hand they never became the completely excluded localities without the vital contacts with the city organism. Until today, these areas offer comfortable living with satisfactory standards while remaining affordable compared to the newer parts of the city.

Mass housing estates from 1960s, 1970s and 1980s might be considered as one of the most visible and tangible impacts of organised modernity. They offered certain standard of housing and dwelling, but, on the other hand they brought mass scale, uniformity, standardization and monotonous environment („form follows function“ till absurdum...). What was once considered progressive and avantgarde (Le Corbusier´s models of housing estates as „machines for dwelling”) later lost through mass proliferation all progressive elements and became a symbol of misunderstanding of human complexity. State as an investor could not keep the standards of quality, ignored local specifics, melody of the landscape or stories bound to the territory. Despite being more often than not the stories of discontinuity, mass housing estates survived all of societal changes and had been largely accepted on the societal level. Today, in the times of uncertainty and ambivalence never seen before, they are confronted by new array of challenges on the global, national, regional and local scale.

These themes, nevertheless, go beyond the debates about the physical environment of these settlements. In these neighbourhoods, the discussed topics include their economic, social and environmental sustainability, their belonging to the city organism, the communities of inhabitants and their perception of the neighbourhood or their inclusion with the broader city structures etc. The mass housing projects have been externalised worldwide in one form or another and until today they remain as emergent places that might not be the most appealing parts of the city, but they offer good standard of living for everyday people. In the light of the newer city development concepts reflecting on the current challenges, mass housing remain a hot topic for planners everywhere.

Among main thematic scopes of the conference are: a) new quality of interactions mass housing neighbourhoods in the context of global changes (e.g. digitalization, economic development, climate change), b) smart approaches in mass housing neighbourhoods – a contribution towards sustainable development management, c) built environment, physical transformation and renewal initiative and d) transformation of local identity and social milieu – from grey dormitories to manifold presence.