The social housing estates built in the decades following WW2 were meant to stimulate specific ways of being social. This is still reflected in their spatial organisation and in the designed playgrounds, parks, assembly rooms and other open and accessible spaces. We examine how publicness has been understood and performed in these housing estates over time. The aim is to begin a heritage discussion concerning how post-war social housing estates can facilitate publicness in rich and meaningful ways now and in the future. What processes of disrepair, endurance, growth and appropriation have taken place in the spaces designed for social activities? How have people valued traces of the past and negotiated different modes of publicness and privacy at these sites over time? What is the agency of physical materials and spatial figures in this process?

Publicness

and Heritage

Just like many other large-scale housing areas from the 1960s to 1980s in Europe, Farum Midtpunkt is subject to polarising viewpoints on heritage; on the one hand, it is
criticised for being a historical failure whose architecture has caused segregation and social problems, and on the other hand, it is being included in the architectural canon where it figures as a valuable document of Danish brutalism. What both of these positions share is that they leave little room for the local and diverse ways of life over time. Our research draws from heritage work that starts from the local – from the multiplicity of memories and concerns of residents and other local actors. Such perspectives, we believe, can empower disregarded residents and contribute to more just histories and futures. We are interested in how residents, employees, and visitors have practiced, understood, and altered the communal and public spaces ‘on the ground’, paying special attention to the negotiation of publicness and privacy in a long-term perspective. We ask: how has publicness been imagined, contested, and enacted in specific sites from the 1970s to today? Using microhistory as a research strategy we 112 chose to zoom into a particular spatial typology; the corridors within each of the building blocks. The micro-historical strategy allowed us to create a better understanding of these corridors as living heritage – as sites that have facilitated conflict and cohesion, and a multiplicity of different modes of privacy and publicness over time. We chose the corridors because they are one of the most contested spatial figures in the present – some residents experience them as spaces of danger, others  mourn these corridors as a memory of the good old days with communal activities. They were also an important part of the original design concept and were celebrated during Farum Midtpunkt’s initial years. With this micro-history, we aim to (1) add temporal depth and nuance to the understanding of the social capacities (or lack thereof) of Farum Midtpunkt, and (2) explore how the notion of publicness can expand and contribute to existing debates about Farum Midtpunkt as a form of heritage and its futures. Our diachronic studies involved archive research, oral histories, guided polyphonic tours and on-the-ground studies of the interplay between the material and the social.

Literature:

Keil, L. S., Riesto, S., Avermaete, T. (2021), Welfare Landscapes Between Individuality and Communality: Social housing in Albertslund Syd, Landscape Research, 46, No. 4, pp. 456-473.

Pendlebury, J., Townshend, T. and Rose Gilroy, R. (2009). 'Social Housing as Heritage: The Case of Byker, Newcastle upon Tyne’, in Gibson, L. and Pendlebury, J. (eds.) Valuing Historic Environments, ed. by. Farnham: Ashgate, pp. 179–201.

Riesto, S. and Tietjen, A. (2016). ‘Doing Heritage Together: New Heritage Frontiers in Collaborative Planning’, in Guttormsen, T. S. and Swensen, G. (eds.) Heritage, Democracy and the Public: Nordic Approaches. New York: Routledge, pp. 159–74.

Research team:
Svava Riesto, Sara Folvig and Anne Tietjen, Section for Landscape Architecture and Planning, Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.