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Post-War Middle-Class Housing

Models, Construction and Change

Edited By Gaia Caramellino and Federico Zanfi

Post-war middle-class housing played a key role in constructing and transforming the cities of Europe and America, deeply impacting today’s urban landscape. And yet, this stock has been underrepresented in a literature mostly focused on public housing and the work of a few master architects.
This book is the first attempt to explore such housing from an international perspective. It provides a comparative insight into the processes of construction, occupation and transformation of residential architecture built for the middle-classes in 12 different countries between the 1950s and 1970s. It investigates the role of models, actors and policies that shaped the middle-class city, tracing geographies, chronologies and forms of development that often cross national frontiers.
This study is particularly relevant today within the context of «fragilization» which affects the middle-classes, challenging, as it does, the urban role played by this residential heritage in the light of technological obsolescence, trends in patterns of homeownership, as well as social and generational changes.
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I.3 A Social and Cultural Reading of the Athenian Polykatoikia, 1949–1974


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(School of Constructed Environments, Parsons the New School of Design)

I.3 A Social and Cultural Reading of the Athenian Polykatoikia, 1949–1974

To this day almost all descriptions of Athens have at their core a contrast between the grandeur of the Acropolis and the banality of the post-war city. As we see in figure 1, Athens today consists of a vast, mostly unplanned, nondescript (and polluted) expanse that stands in stark contrast to the cultural magnificence of its famed classical monuments. To make sense of the particularities of Athenian urbanism, this article presents a new set of conceptual lenses for describing the arc of change in the post-war city. It explores issues of identity and modernization, and in particular associates a set of behaviours, traditions and attitudes toward architecture and building rooted in Greek history and social life, to the urbanism that developed in the post-war. Another aim is to unpack and to give greater specificity to the term “informal urbanism” that covers such a wide range of diverse settlement conditions around the world, by using this analysis of Athens as a tool.

Any casual glance in local daily papers will attest that the erratic and inconsistent attitude toward urbanism and planning and the lack thereof, is an ongoing obsession rooted in the founding of the modern Greek State in the early 1830s1. Just before the Athens Olympics of 2004, a new writer noted:

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