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Post-War Middle-Class Housing

Models, Construction and Change

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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III.2 Multiple Versions of Modernity in Post-War Belgium. The Housing Estate of Ban Eik


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(research group Henry van de Velde, University of Antwerp)

III.2 Multiple Versions of Modernity in Post-War Belgium. The Housing Estate of Ban Eik

The Ban Eik housing estate in Wezembeek-Oppem, a town ten kilometres from Brussels, is an exemplary case of progressive modernity in post-war Belgium. In 1960, it was awarded the first prize in a competition organised by the National Society for Housing (Nationale Maatschappij voor de Huisvesting, or NMH) and it was discussed at length in several journals. They praised the urban layout, the variety of housing types (an example of mixed development), the low prices and the modern domestic comforts provided and, last but not least, the novel construction process (prefabrication according to the American model). In addition, there was nothing but praise for the prototypes that were erected, a process that brought together the designers, builders and potential customers. It offered opportunities for the architectural office Groupe Structures (Jacques Boseret-Mali, Raymond Stenier and Louis Van Hove) to improve the designs and for the builders to test the new construction methods, whilst the future inhabitants could imagine what their homes might look like. The housing project was realised by the building company Mijn huisje (my house), a public institution based on a cooperation agreement between the village of Wezembeek-Oppem, the national government, the province, social services and private investors1. It was a requirement of the project, therefore, that it would meet official Belgian social...

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