Architecture for Leisure in Post-war Europe (1945-1989)

  • Conference Call
  • The development of the European welfare state started in the late 19th century as a reaction to processes of modernization and accelerated around the mid-20th century, after the massive destruction caused by two world wars. Caught between American corporate capitalism and Soviet communism, the welfare state devised a specific European answer to Cold War politics. In most European countries, this resulted in the construction of planning institutions and new bureaucracies, facilitating the redistribution of wealth, knowledge, and political power as well as the implementation of new building programs such as mass housing and social infrastructure. In this context of economic growth and rising prosperity, many Western European countries also outlined a set of policies designed to mitigate social antagonisms. Such policies not only targeted education, social security, and health care, they also democratized the right to leisure. Besides housing programs, the European welfare state thus gave rise to an elaborate infrastructure of leisure.

    Two seemingly opposing tendencies prevailed in this period. There was on the one hand an impoverishment of public space, brought about by increasing car mobility, suburban growth and the rise of a ‘television-culture’; developments which negatively affected the vivid social life that used to flourish in streets and squares and simultaneously lured people towards ‘easy’ leisure activities of more questionable moral value. Authorities and social organizations on the other hand attempted to counter this evolution by constructing different types of ‘leisure centres’ (cultural centres, swimming pools, sports centres, recreational domains, holiday camps, etc.) where people could meet, restore their threatened social relationships and devote themselves to uplifting cultural activities. This undertaking led to an increasing interiorization of ‘public’ space in buildings for collective use.

    This international seminar aims to investigate – from different perspectives – these interacting tendencies and the collective spaces and buildings they produced. We are looking for contributions which are situated at the nexus of architecture discourse, building practice, and national and local cultural contexts and we hope to welcome academics from a wide range of disciplines, including architecture and the built environment, history, sociology, geography, and cultural studies. While the seminar’s primary focus is on Western Europe, we also welcome contributions that offer valuable insights into the developments on the other side of the iron curtain.

    Please send abstracts (max. 300 words in length) and a brief biography to submissions@ by Monday, August 29th 2011.

    Notification of acceptance will be sent by Monday, October 3rd 2011.

    Full papers due: December 15th 2011. Click here to download the submission guidelines.

    To download this call for papers in pdf, click here

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