Microhistories of Landscape Elements in Albertslund Syd: Plant Beds, a Canal and Garden Fences of Welfare

Research output: Book/ReportPh.D. thesis

This thesis presents a methodological approach used to explore a specific Danish post World War II social housing estate, Albertslund Syd (1963-1968), as a ‘welfare landscape’. In the light of new urban agendas, new social patterns, material decay and a bleak public image, many post-war social housing estates are today facing or already undergoing large reconfigurations of their built and open spaces. The term welfare landscape emphasises the significance of landscapes and open spaces in the rapidly expanding urbanisation after WWII, that despite of their omnipresence as designed landscapes, have been largely overlooked in architectural discourses.
The aim of this thesis is to offer an approach to understand relationships between conceptions of welfare and spatial, material and social practices in the welfare landscape over time. With this aim, I seek to challenge common perceptions of post-war social housing landscapes as static entities of outdated welfare ideals, and to challenge established methods of approaching these landscapes as the result of causal relationships between materiality and social practices, and between intention and reality.
The thesis explores the relationships between how welfare was initially articulated in the design of the landscape, and how it was then practiced over time by various actors, by asking: How are conceptions of welfare articulated in Albertslund Syd over time, through the practices in the landscape of designers (architects, landscape architects and planners), and later practices of residents and other actors? The first research questions is followed up by a second question, addressing the methodology: How do we read articulations of welfare in the landscape of Albertslund Syd over time?
By combining the aspects of scale from microhistory with the temporal aspects from traditions such as landscape biography, the analysis zoom in on significant elements in the landscape and their developments over time. With this approach the concept of ‘landscape elements’ is introduced as a lens to understand how welfare has been imagined, materialised and practiced in relation to the landscape, and to study how these imaginaries, materialisations and practices have a mutual effect on each other. Three significant landscape elements in
Albertslund Syd are explored as microhistories over time: plant beds, a
canal and garden fences.
The landscape elements are explored through various types of sources,
from their initial designs and underlying conceptions of welfare, through shifting practices, material, spatial and social, and into present day understandings of welfare that these elements entail and articulate.
The thesis shows that the landscape and its materiality proved to be complicit in which changing practices can take root and redefine the function and significance of the elements. The thesis finds that the designed landscape with its underlying conceptions of welfare has itself had an impact on how these practices change over time, and that non-human actors such as soil, plants, and paved surfaces, are important actors giving shape to these welfare landscapes. Albertslund Syd, and other social housing estates, are fields of tension, in which
values of well-being and of citizenship are constantly negotiated, by multiple human and non-human actors.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherDepartment of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen
Number of pages230
Publication statusPublished - 2021

ID: 299394852