AMPS conference in London, June 2018

Look back to go forward!

The Modell Steiermark as cultural heritage for social sustainability



The ongoing urbanization trend is a global phenomenon, which results in a lack of affordable and social sustainable housing in major cities of industrialized nations worldwide. In addition, for the last 40 years, research and development in the field of residential housing have mostly been defined by technical progress. The social requirements of housing have not been updated yet and, currently, there is a lack of focusing on people needs and the diversified urban society of today. Pivotal issues are thus the aim of creating affordable and sustainable housing, a focus on society’s diversified requirements of accommodation, and our social responsibility of reaching this target. The approach proposed here is to apply the theory of sufficiency in combination with an awareness of social innovation. Sufficiency, as an integrated component of sustainability, can be a significant point for cost-effective housing while social innovations are concepts and methods that focus on the society needs. However, in order to develop new strategies to create affordable housing through these means, it is essential to be aware of previous projects with comparable settings. During the second half of the 20th century, the county of Styria in Austria created innovative housing concepts, which were meant to develop new solutions for social housing. From 1970 to 1991 an interdisciplinary research program, the so-called Modell Steiermark, focused on a housing development to investigate the key factors of social housing. This experimental approach combined applied research with interdisciplinarity that involved politicians, architects, scientists, housing associations and the future residents. It led to the creation of an astonishing type of social housing with aspects of social sustainability and responsibility in the process of planning and use. Positive aspects of this include strong relations among the residents and a high level of personal identification with their housing complex. This paper will look back at this program and suggest that reflecting the past, and being aware of the present requirements – both practical and social – are the key factors to creating affordable, sustainable and good welfare housing in today’s cities.

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