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Between autonomy and integration. Housing estates and the European city, 1865-2000

Applicant Davidovici Irina
Number 151387
Funding scheme Marie Heim-Voegtlin grants
Research institution Institut für Geschichte & Theorie der Architektur (gta) / D-ARCH ETH Zürich
Institution of higher education ETH Zurich - ETHZ
Main discipline Architecture and Social urban science
Start/End 01.02.2014 - 31.01.2016
Approved amount 204'638.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Architecture and Social urban science
General history (without pre-and early history)

Keywords (6)

social housing, residential architecture; Europe; case studies; housing estates; urban planning; 19th and 20th centuries architecture

Lay Summary (French)

Une perspective historique des relations entre les domaines résidentiels et la cité, mettant en contraste la vision des architectes, selon laquelle ces domaines formeraient des entités quasi autonomes, et les réalités de leur intégration infra-structurale et matérielle dans le tissu urbain.
Lay summary

Cette recherche sera focalisée sur les domaines résidentiels urbains, soit des ensembles urbains comprenant deux ou plusieurs immeubles résidentiels d’une densité de population de moyenne à haute, conçus à peu près à la même époque et avec un niveau d’administration commune. La notion de tels domaines, conçus à l’origine comme des oasis d’hygiène et de civilité, sis en dehors de la ville menaçant ruine, a été propagée tout au long du 20e siècle. Cette fiction, étonnement persistante, d’un domaine habitable formant une unité ordonnée et autonome a manqué de prendre en compte et de traiter les contradictions et les conflits de la ville industrielle.

Le présent projet examine le rapport entre l’ordonnancement limité des nouvelles cités et le plus large ordonnancement urbain, formulé en tant que dialectique de l’autonomie et de l’intégration. La manière dont ces cités sont reliées à la ville soulève des problèmes concernant le statut social de la famille et de la communauté. La recherche examinera comment sont projetées et utilisées les aires dites « communes » et les territoires partagés, mettant en lumière les conséquences sociales des décisions architecturales. À un niveau plus abstrait, l’analyse s’oriente vers des questions concernant le rapport entre l’urbanisme et l’architecture, d’une part, et l’habitation, passant des qualités matérielles des bâtiments à leur signification culturelle.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 07.01.2014

Responsible applicant and co-applicants



The Depth of the Street
Davidovici Irina (2015), The Depth of the Street, in AA Files ANNALS OF THE ARCHITECTURAL ASSOCIATION SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE, (70), 103-123.
Aspects of urban integration in SAAL Nord
Davidovici Irina, Montenegro Manuel, Aspects of urban integration in SAAL Nord, in Canto Moniz Gonçalo (ed.), Fundação de Serralves, Porto.
Norms, Standards, Side effects: H.A. Darbishire and the Peabody Model
Davidovici Irina, Norms, Standards, Side effects: H.A. Darbishire and the Peabody Model, in Guillery Peter (ed.), RIBA Publishing, London, 20.
Recoding Reform: Changing Concepts in London's Early Housing Estates, 1860-1900
Davidovici Irina, Recoding Reform: Changing Concepts in London's Early Housing Estates, 1860-1900, in Stühlinger Harald, Hentschel Britta (ed.), Jovis Verlag, Berlin.
The New City, 1945. Ludwig Hilberseimer Fiche
Davidovici Irina, The New City, 1945. Ludwig Hilberseimer Fiche, in Lampugnani Vittorio Magnago (ed.), gta Verlag, Zurich, 00.


Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
TU Delft Netherlands (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Architectural Association Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Society of Architectural Historians 2017 Annual International Conference Poster The Tenement: Collective City Dwelling Before Modernism 01.03.2017 Glasgow, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Davidovici Irina;
Die Erneuerung des Wohnens: EUROPÄISCHER WOHNUNGSBAU 1945—1975 INTERNATIONALE TAGUNG UND AUSSTELLUNG Talk given at a conference “Avant-garde in public office: Housing at the London County Council, 1950—1960” 24.11.2016 DAM Frankfurt, Germany Davidovici Irina;
EAHN Fourth International Meeting. Session HOUSING AND THE GRASSROOTS Talk given at a conference Architecture in Utopia? Agencies of Design in Zurich's Alternative Housing Cooperatives 31.01.2016 Dublin, Ireland Davidovici Irina;
Recoding the City International Conference, ETH Zurich Talk given at a conference Recoding Reform: The Peabody Estate as disciplinary apparatus, London 1864-1885 05.11.2015 ETH Zurich, Switzerland Davidovici Irina;
Once Upon a Time: Manfredo Tafuri and the Crisis of Architectural History Talk given at a conference “Contradictions of operative reality”: Notes for a revised history of housing 06.03.2015 Zurich, Switzerland Davidovici Irina;
COLÓQUIO INTERNACIONAL 74-14 | O SAAL e a ARQUITETURA # Talk given at a conference Aspects of urban integration in SAAL Nord 14.11.2014 Coimbra, Portugal Davidovici Irina;

Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
EAHN Housing Focus Group - Methodology Workshop Workshop 01.06.2016 Dublin, Ireland Davidovici Irina;

Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Talks/events/exhibitions Book Launch Typology Review No 3, gta German-speaking Switzerland 2016
Talks/events/exhibitions Ideology and Urban Form: Changing Concepts in London's Early Housing Estates German-speaking Switzerland 2016
Talks/events/exhibitions In the End: Architecture Journeys through Time 1959 – 2019 International 2016
Print (books, brochures, leaflets) Ceinture Rouge Syndrome International 2015
Talks/events/exhibitions Respondent to 'Living Anatomy: Housing 1965-2015' Exhibition, GSD Harvard International 2015


This research proposes a conceptual and historical inquiry into housing estates, focusing on the dialectic of autonomy and integration of their relation to the European city. It asks about the extent to which the spatial configurations of urban estates represent, and in turn enable, social relationships between individuals and communities, inhabitants and society at large. The proposal explores modes in which housing estates have historically negotiated a wider urban order, while preserving their coherence as architectural propositions. For the present purpose, by ‘estate’ is meant an urban ensemble of two or more, medium- to high-density, primarily residential buildings, conceived at the same time and with a level of common administration. If housing brings architecture in closest contact with societal issues, urban residential estates offer the opportunity to observe this connection through the manner in which ‘common’ territories are planned, occupied, and negotiated. Through the examination of relationships between estate and the city, I aim to engage with the historical development of ideas of family and community. The research will place the estates’ architectural qualities in relation to the analysis of socio-political, infrastructural and environmental conditions, highlighting the reciprocity of programmatic and design intentions. The following questions are addressed: How does the planning of estates reflect and affect societal relationships between individuals, families and an increasingly urban world? What are the possibilities for overlap and interface between private and public territories on the estate? How do such territories impact on the inhabitants’ life? How are architects guided or restricted in design by regulations, and what are the larger forces in society and culture shaping these norms? How do residential estates reconcile the multiple demands of architectural aspirations, ideas of home, housing market, environmental concerns and large-scale urban strategies? The research comprises the analysis of ten to twelve urban housing estates in European cities in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, assessed in terms of architectural and urban qualities, the planning and actual functioning of threshold areas between private and public territories, their adaptability to changing needs of inhabitation etc. Estates are considered in their wider context including contemporary ideals of social reform, housing legislation and market, urban planning strategies. The inquiry combines archival research, site observation and photographic records, interviews with architects, administrators and inhabitants, and recourse to the relevant literature from sociology and philosophy fields. The qualitative information thus obtained will be structured according to the protocols of hermeneutic interpretation.Taking into account the critical need for valid housing models, this database of historical references retains practical applicability for all professionals active in the field of housing, from the design and legal control of collective housing, to urban planning, contracting and clients. It provides an educational tool for students and academics, as for the wider public concerned with habitat and the European built environment in general. With its focus on the urban integration of housing estates, the project contributes to the better understanding of housing design and policy. In counterpoint to the criticism of formalist, spectacular landmarks, this research will provide a tool in formulating sustainable strategies for the responsible growth and future densification of European cities.