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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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IV.3 The Future of the Post-War Single-Family House: The Case of Flanders

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← 350 | 351 →

WOUTER BERVOETS, MARIJN VAN DE WEIJER

(KU Leuven)               (Hasselt University)

IV.3 The Future of the Post-War Single-Family House: The Case of Flanders

Introduction

In the post-war era, Belgium, like many western countries, was confronted with a middle-class massively opting for a single-family house in a quiet and green setting outside the historic city centres. This specific housing ideal resulted in extensive areas of urban sprawl. Today, in the light of the ageing baby-boom generation, decreasing family sizes, economic changes and a growing ecological consciousness, the search for spatial strategies providing alternatives for failing or potentially failing, single-use and car-dominated residential neighbourhoods is reaching the public discourse on spatial planning in Flanders.

One of the options is to improve what is there, looking for ways to reuse existing houses and to introduce more diversity as well as a higher density, while safeguarding existing settlement patterns. In an international context (mainly in North America), such strategies are conceived to “retrofit”, “repair” or “transform” existing residential neighbourhoods1. The proposed strategies range from incremental infill through the subdivision of existing houses and lots, over the insertion of new collective housing projects and public facilities, to the (partial) ← 351 | 352 → demolition of neighbourhoods for landscape recovery. Flanders shows parallels with North America because it equally has a significant share of detached houses in low-density environments. However, these houses are scattered across a rather small region, resulting in very isotropic urbanisation patterns...

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