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Abstract _ Karen Beckmann

Urbanity through density?
A study of 1970s large scale housing estates

Large scale housing estates of the 1970s can be characterized as complex housing developments with a mixture of different urban functions and different forms of housing structures such as terraced houses, row housing or multi story buildings. They exceeded previous urban forms by size and density and generate, because of their specific urban structure, distinct urban residential districts. Today, large scale housing estates get a new actuality with regard to demographic changes, the upcoming tendencies of living in urban, inner city districts and therefore the research on high-density inner city residential structures. At the same time large scale housing estates often have poor public reputation while their reception by apartment tenants and owners is positive. It thus seems that residents of large scale housing estates value specific qualities that are beyond the public perspective.

The dissertation investigates these specific qualities as a knowledge base for improvements and new developments. The main research question is: Which qualities do large scale housing estates illustrate and how, after been transformed into contemporary perspectives, can they be used for solving contemporary urban planning problems? The research design consists of a comprehensive literature review, background analysis and in-depth case studies of three large scale housing projects in Munich, Graz, and Berlin. Research methods include literature reviews, interviews of local residents, planners and architects as well as site visits and own observations. At a first step literature and plans will be analyzed in order to find out about the specific architectural components of the projects. Secondly, during site visits, these components can be analysed on their specific qualities. The results of the dissertation shall contribute to a better understanding of the qualities of 1970s large scale housing estates, and shall provide useful guidance for contemporary architects to adapt existing estates to new challenges and to find new perspectives for upcoming problems. Overall the doctoral dissertations aim is to test methods of extracting specific qualities of built structures in order to find answers to contemporary and upcoming architectural problems.


Karen Beckmann, Urbanität durch Dichte? Geschichte und Gegenwart der Großwohnkomplexe der 1970er Jahre, Bielefeld: transcript 2015