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Small-scale Building Enterprise and Global Home Ownership in the Age of Economic Expansion

Submission deadline: 31 July 2021

Section guest-edited by Panayotis Tournikiotis, Professor, National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), Dr. Konstantina Kalfa, Research Associate (NTUA) and Dr. Stavros Alifragkis, Research Associate (NTUA)

This thematic section of ABE Journal seeks to investigate bottom-up or middling, informal or formal bodies of agents providing private housing and their potential roles in shaping the global homeownership market beyond the dominant regions of northern and western Europe and North America between the Second World War and the end of the twentieth century. These bodies may have taken the form of cooperatives comprising various formulations of landowners, real-estate agents, small-scale building contractors or entrepreneurial housing developers, lawyers, notaries, potential buyers etc. Contributions of individual case-studies or cross-case analyses from around the world will offer a global perspective on small-scale building enterprises and a wider understanding of their protagonists, set-up, modes of operation and (building) practices, as well as the actual products of their labour. A critical reassessment of these projects—whether they be small-scale, mixed-use, multi-storey buildings; row houses; multi-family homes; communal living or cohousing and other types of residential development—will unearth networks of expertise, knowledge and power and the effects of complex, multi-directional cultural transfers including those driven by ex-imperial or new geo-political relationships.

The growing scholarship on post-war informal access to shelter in the Global South begins to unveil a wide range of entrepreneurial house-building practices in urban and peri-urban contexts and legal or illegal markets. Part of this scholarship engages with a substantiated critique of informality’s idealizations, by exposing its historical linkages with broader political and economic agendas during the era of worldwide economic expansion, bookended by the end of the war and the mid-1970s recession mostly in the western world and characterised by the formulation of various “development” strategies and discourses. We wish to move beyond theorizations of historical instances of small-scale building corporations idealized as impromptu and cooperative approaches to housing or—on the antipode—criticized as architecturally unworthy, failed attempts and incomplete paths to modernization/industrialization, and engage instead in a critical understanding of small-scale entrepreneurial practices. In this vein, such entrepreneurial attitudes towards housing, which proliferated between the late-1940s and the mid-1970s, come under different names and formulations, such as “antiparochi” (exchange of a plot for flats on the same property) in Greece, “yap-sat” (construct-sell) in Turkey and “besaaz-o-befroosh” (build-and-sell) in Iran. These geographically far-flung practices, however diverse, appear to share some common ground. They seem to thrive in the absence of, or in the gaps between, a highly regulatory state or a centrally designed policy for social housing in the vein of European housing estates. Furthermore, compared to the European model of social housing, cooperative house-building practices have often allowed for a greater degree of diversity and flexibility, by enabling future occupants to have a say in the design of their own homes and, to a certain extent, the image of their cities. Other similarities may be traced to the fulfilment of basic social rights, such as access to affordable housing for the less affluent, usually associated with the promotion of homeownership or even the gradual formation of the middle-class in their respective countries.

We welcome original contributions that tackle the multi-faceted phenomenon of entrepreneurial house-building practices through the study of local strategies and/or cross-national comparisons. Possible themes may include but are not limited to: small-scale building agencies and their configurations; the profiles of the protagonists-agents; the economic, political, legal or social environment; the building practices or modes of production; the actual typologies and end-products of these processes; and post-construction experiences. We seek methodologically diverse responses to critical aspects of the phenomenon, such as: the potential involvement of the state and other formal agencies (local, nationwide or international); codes, ordinances, regulations, by-laws or laws that may have promoted such practices (such as the sale of transferable floor space index); land acquisition, land speculation and the cost of housing; potential buyers’ involvement in the design of their future homes; and the ideological underpinnings of the very entrepreneurial spirit that legitimized this type of housing practices (e.g. studies of the public discourse as expressed in daily or specialized press). Instances of response to potential transnational flows and/or development of expertise are particularly welcome. In this context in particular, we seek contributions that investigate two specific aspects of the phenomenon: on the one hand, we are interested in nurturing a discussion of small-scale, private house-building initiatives outside Europe and North America as a consequence of post-WWII official housing-aid programs initiated by the USA, the UN, and other international agencies or the particular contribution of specific individuals in the context of an indoctrination to the capitalist ethos of self-effort, risk and investment. We would also be interested in relevant flows or interactions between different countries of the global South; between them and the USSR or Eastern Europe; or between them and southern European nations. On the other hand, we seek insights on how trained local architects—as the local bearers of certain types of methodological/technical expertise—responded to these processes in the light of the formation of professional ethos and practices beyond Europe.

This guest-edited section of ABE Journal aspires to shed fresh light on the making of the modern house and the modern city from the late-1940s and the advent of international modernism until the end of the 20th century. It seeks to broaden modern and post-modern architectural and urban historiography by empowering alternative histories of post-war modernity beyond Europe and North America. Ultimately, this examination will widen current perceptions about the possible strands and shapes of international architectural and urban modernity and the active subjects that have historically produced and/or consumed it.

Submission deadline:
31 July 2021.

Authors to send submission email to abe[at]inha[dot]fr, and to the guest editors Konstantina Kalfa kalfacccon[at]gmail[dot]com and Stavros Alifragkis sa346[at]otenet[dot]gr.

Authors to send their files over 5 MB separately (via WeTransfer or similar)

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