EAUH Conference 2018


Session SS42. Equipping Post-War Europe: Reassessing The Mutual Link Between Public Services And Urbanization

Coordinators: Cristina Renzoni (, Michael Ryckewaert (

The session focuses on the role played by public services and facilities in driving the urbanisation process in European cities and territories from the end of WWII to the present day. The effort in providing facilities such as schools, sports and cultural centres, health care centres, public parks and playgrounds strongly characterized the second half of the twentieth century. Planning and architectural choices concerning public services had a relevant impact on the spatial organisation of European cities. They contributed to shape peripheral areas and new urban sectors. They played a role in defining the borders of medium-sized cities and the configuration of micro-interventions inside the historical inner areas. Finally, they contributed to drive dispersed processes of urbanisation of rural areas or in the outskirts of metropolitan areas.

Recent studies on the spatial history of the European welfare state have mostly focused on either the architectural side of the process (design models and strategies, technical and constructive choices) or its planning and political implications (top-down vs. bottom-up processes, quantification and parameterisation of social needs). The session proposes to privilege an intermediate scale — one centred on spaces of urban proximity — that has mostly been neglected by recent analyses. This would make it possible to focus on models, regulations and policies on the one hand, and on place-making practices, actors and local contexts on the other hand. Such a perspective may provide an interesting opportunity to pursue a comparative understanding of the history of the European “well-equipped city” after WWII.

We especially welcome proposals that focus on:
a) the relationship between the production of public facilities and a specific 'welfare state project' related to specific national or regional contexts;
b) ‘biographies’ of public facilities that study the locally rooted conditions contributing to shape them and describe the actors involved in their making: institutions, citizens, professionals, etc.;
c) the comparison between different families of services (such as schools or public parks) observed in the spatial relationship they establish with their surroundings;
d) analyses of particular cities or urban territories that have been markedly impacted in their development by such welfare state public facilities.
Keywords: post-war Europe; public services; urbanization