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High-rise Housing in Europe: current trends and future prospects

Richard Turkington ,Ronald van Kempen, Frank Wassenberg

Published by Delft University Press, 2004 | ISBN 90-407-2483-0

Whilst every country has its own house-building traditions, there is only one truly European housing type. In the generation after the Second World War,countries throughout Europe built high-rise housing in the public sector as the ‘modern’ response to acute housing shortage. Built after the Second World War as a ‘modern’ response to acute housing shortage, high-rise housing was seen as a symbol of the new Europe in which the state would cast off the constraints of the private market and create new lifestyles in planned urban environments.North and south, east and west, similar dreams were shared in different political cultures, high-rise was as an expression of the new utopia. A generation later, products which shared similar starting points have reached very different positions. In some countries, high-rise is an entirely normal housing type, in others, its role has been re-thought, whilst in a third group, stigma has replaced its previous high status.

This book attempts to tell the story of high-rise housing in Europe, from first thoughts to current realities and finally to future prospects. Drawing on individual contributions from 15 countries, we are able to identify how the original ideas were drawn up and communicated, which countries were most influential, who led and who followed. In the years between, we are able to trace the ‘careers’ of high-rise housing in different market conditions, not least through the massive shift in Central and Eastern Europe from state socialism to market capitalism. High-rise housing is unique in design and construction and offers some flexibility within clear limitations.

How well has high-rise housing adjusted to changing demands over the past 30, 40 or even 50 years? Finally, we are able to take stock of high-rise in a Europe increasingly characterised by reduced state provision and a growing faith in market dynamics, and where global ‘mega-trends’ are beyond the control of individual countries. What are the prospects for high-rise housing in such a marketoriented environment, what are its strengths and weaknesses, where are the opportunities and what are the threats? What is clear is that, irrespective of its status and quality, high-rise housing is here to stay. No country is in a position to ignore this legacy of the post-war and mass housing period. As intended, high-rise housing was built in volume, not least in the former Soviet countries. We have to be equipped to assess the contribution of high-rise housing and to determine its future – this book is a major contribution to developing this perspective.

About the editors
Richard Turkington (m) is Director of the Housing Vision Consultancy and an Honorary Research Fellow at the Centre for Comparative Housing Research, De Montfort University. He is an urban sociologist who has been engaged with the high-rise issue for over a decade.

Ronald van Kempen (r) is Professor of Urban Geography at the Urban and Regional research centre Utrecht, Faculty of GeoSciences, Utrecht University, the Netherlands. His current research focuses on urban restructuring, social exclusion, spatial segregation and the future of large housing estates.

Frank Wassenberg (l) is a senior urban planner at the OTB Research Institute for Housing, Urban and Mobility Studies, part of the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. He is working on urban renewal, housing markets, planning policies, high-rise and other large housing estates and neighbourhood approaches.