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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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II.2 Co-op City and Twin Parks: Two Models for Middle-Class Housing in the Bronx in the 1970s

Extract

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JULIETTE SPERTUS, SUSANNE SCHINDLER

Juliette Spertus (ClosedLoops), Susanne Schindler (Columbia University / ETH Zurich)

II.2 Co-op City and Twin Parks: Two Models for Middle-Class Housing in the Bronx in the 1970s

Introduction

Talking about urban middle-class housing in the United States borders on a contradiction in terms. In America, “middle-class” is generally associated with the suburbs and its single-family house. The city with its multi-family housing, in contrast, is considered the domain of the poor and the rich. The drastic deindustrialization of cities in the 1950s and 1960s combined with federal incentives for homeownership and highway infrastructure drained cities of jobs, tax revenue, and non-immigrant, non-minority families, and made suburban growth synonymous with middle-class living1. The resulting “urban crisis”2 is perhaps best expressed by the image of brick apartment buildings reduced to rubble in what became known as the “burning Bronx” in the mid-1970s. President Gerald Ford’s response to New York City’s request for federal aid at that time, captured in the 1975 Daily News headline “Ford to City: Drop Dead!” summarizes the nation’s anti-urban attitude.

Even in the midst of this urban decline, there were concerted efforts by local, state, and federal governments to produce high-quality apartments for the urban middle-class. Co-op City, a 15,000-unit satellite town at the north-eastern edge of the Bronx, and Twin Parks, a 2,200-unit scattered-site infill project towards its centre, were both planned in ← 167 | 168 → the...

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