EAUH Conference 2018


Session SS40. A parallel story? Urban Renewal in East and West

Coordinators: Petr Roubal (, Max Welch Guerra (

In post-war Europe, both East and West, the historic city centres and central residential areas that were built before WWI were not valued particularly highly. Large-scale clearance, i.e. the planned destruction of central residential areas, began in Western Europe in the 1960s. The plans for a radical renewal of the historic centres, in contrast, were as a rule only partially put into operation, if at all, in both East and West.
In very different socio-political situations for example regarding private ownership of land and political freedom and under very different urban planning conditions a remarkable change in urban development policy took place throughout Europe in the 1970s. In a process fraught with conflicts, both the historic centres and the central residential areas were reappraised. This reappraisal was accompanied by an internationalised academic debate leading to very different renewal models. The difference regarding large housing estates on the perimeters of cities appears even greater. While in Eastern and Central Europe these continued to be built until the collapse of socialism (and beyond), the large housing estates in Western Europe themselves became a new, third area of urban renewal in the 1980s.
The aims of the urban renewal programmes were changes in both urban morphology and function, sometimes including changes in the population structure. Ambitious urban renewal programmes were formulated and legal, institutional and financial resources mobilised. The implementation of these programmes sometimes caused considerable conflict with the local population. In both Cold War power blocs we find a broad range of practices, from brutal intervention including towards the population to cautious upgrading.
Urban renewal means a conceptual reorientation on the part of urban administrations and academic disciplines and requires new methods of urban development stocktaking, decision-making, legit-imation and implementation. Urban renewal was a major step towards the diversification of urban development policy.
Although many urban renewal projects were only partially implemented, they generally changed the parameters of urban development and urban economics. They changed cities durably and their effects can still be felt today even if they are not always obvious.
The session aims to examine transnational parallels and divergences in European urban renewal policy up to 2000. Preference will be given to contributions towards a pan-European view of this major phase of urban development in the 20th century based on the dimensions of urban renewal named above.
Keywords: urban renewal; east/west; planning history; urbanism and politics