Architecture means applied sociology

Kolakowski, Marcin Mateusz (1998) Architecture means applied sociology. Architektura & Biznes, 75 (10). pp. 20-22. ISSN 1230-1817

Architecture Means Applied Sociology [A&B1998/10]

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Architecture Means Applied Sociology:
The end of this year will see the completion of a project in which, for the last ten years, a team of sociologists and architects has been working on the so called Hanover Experiment, aimed at renovating and modernising the three most impoverished parts of the city, namely Sahlkamp, Oberrcklingen, and Ledeburg. These places are something of a ghetto and for decades they have been used as a final destination for relocating people who, for various reasons, had ended up on the margins of official culture. Mostly dating from the thirties and fifties, the houses were in very bad shape, and often did not comply with the regulations currently in force. The programme called for the rede¬velopment of both the physical structure of the buildings and the social structure around them. Perhaps the most significant element of the project was cooperation with the inhabitants. From the outset, they were kept informed on the planned work and a "neighbourhood lawyer" lived with them, to articulate the community’s apprehensions, protests, and proposals. Every month, conferences have been held where the inhabitants met with social workers, the lawyer, and the management of the housing co-operative. Unemployed for years, many of the inhabitants have received a chance to be taken on to help with the renovation work. It was an opportunity to make some money, but what is more, also to learn a trade which may facilitate finding a job in the future. Many of these new workers have finally felt useful and appreciated. This is how the neighbourhood has developed a sense of responsibility. In a way, many problems in neighbourhoods like these are of a "psychosomatic" nature. The problem of vandalism appears when a group of people end up outside the social hierarchy. Without a chance to improve their social status within the system of the official culture, people create a subculture which often turns into an anticulture. Destruction is a psychological way of avenging yourself on a system which has humiliated you. Devastating buildings, breaking window panes, or defacing walls – paradoxically – results from a subconscious desire to regain one’s dignity.
The project was to lead to the point where the inhabitants could relate positively to their housing estate and cease to be ashamed of it. Apart from building activity, this aim was to be achieved by artistic happenings, graffiti festivals for the young, and fairs involving social workers and architects who explained the principles of renovation and presented various ideas for the design and layout of flats. The improvement in housing standards was also intended to break the "stigmatisation". These housing estates are well known by prospective employers who refuse to employ the people who live there. Thus stigmatised by their own address, these people used to fall into a vicious circle of unemployment.
For the last 30 years, Lindener Baukantor have been quite successful in combining architecture with social work. Their involvement in this project, apart from the obvious renovation work, included adding slanting roofs onto the blocks of flats, which has increased the number of homes and also drastically changed the character of these barrack-like buildings. The addition of balconies and a number of other minor architectural elements plus the development of the infrastructure and the construction of a community club enlivened the neighbourhood and improved the social life, which became the driving force behind the changes.
As most inhabitants had the status of homeless people, they had very limited rights as regards the accommodation they had been allotted, but on the other hand they did not have to pay any rent. As a result of the programme, they have acquired tenancy rights and favourable terms for the repayment of debts that many of them had. The effects of the project, which are already visible today, justify the belief that this renovation campaign will prove profitable both for the inhabitants and the housing co¬operative which has begun to collect rents on a regular basis. The social housing office has announced that between 1990 and 1996 the project reduced the number of the homeless from 1853 to 600, and forecasts for the end of 1998 predict that almost all of the population inhabiting these three estates will be tenants in full right.

Subjects:K Architecture, Building and Planning > K200 Building
K Architecture, Building and Planning > K110 Architectural Design Theory
K Architecture, Building and Planning > K210 Building Technology
K Architecture, Building and Planning > K100 Architecture
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Architecture & Design > School of Architecture & Design (Architecture)
ID Code:18021
Deposited On:27 Jul 2015 14:30

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