Session M35. The Discovery of Urban Living in the Post-Industrial Era (1950-2000)
Coordinators: Cody Hochstenbach (firstname.lastname@example.org), Tim Verlaan (email@example.com)
This session aims to investigate current debates about gentrification as the ultimate consequence of a much-longer historical process, which was triggered by the urban renewal agendas of the post-war era. Specifically, the session explores the discovery of urban living in Western-European cities during the 1960s and 1970s. As artists and students were moving into derided working-class districts, long-time residents were moving out, preferring the more comfortable living environments on the outskirts of cities and towns. The relative small number of newcomers, however, were resilient – renovating, restoring, preserving or at least making their newly-found habitat fit for living. As recently put forward by Suleiman Osman, for them the urban landscapes of the nineteenth century constituted a more authentic living environment than the suburbs they usually had grown up in. In this way, inner-city districts served as a refuge for young middle classes seeking a way out from an increasingly technocratic and bureaucratic society.
The discovery of urban living is one of the most striking developments in the post-war history of Western-European cities, radically transforming residential patterns, forms of consumption and cycles of real estate investment. Yet despite this, not much consideration has been given to the historical roots of the back-to-the-city movement of the 1960s and 1970s. This session aims to open up new and international perspectives on the rise and fall of the urban renewal agendas while simultaneously providing us with a much-needed historical background to current gentrification issues, which increasingly dominate local political debates.
By focusing on the experiences and interactions of newcomers, answers could be provided to questions such as why a younger generation started moving back to the inner cities in the first place, how they understood, organised and presented themselves, and which role local politics and cultural taste played. Investigations of the built environment in this session are not limited to the exterior of buildings; enquiries into the interiors of dwelling spaces are welcome as well. Contributions may also examine public and private policies enabling new forms of urban living. Long-term and especially comparative perspectives, covering multiple case studies and the pre-war period, are highly encouraged.
Keywords: urban renewal; urban living; gentrification; authenticity;1960s/1970s