Between 1928 and 1978, the so called “superblocks”, “superquadras”, “habitation units” "Plattenbauten" or “residenciales públicos” – among other names in different languages- were celebrated as instruments for the social progress of the urban slum dwellers. And indeed, the modern social housing projects took care of the housing necessities of the sectors impoverished by modernity. For politicians, architects and urban planners alike, the modern residential developments were a biopolitical utopia bring forth. If so, why these communities frequently turned into ghettos? How “superblocks” came to be a synonym of marginality, otherness and contempt? It is social housing a vain attempt of human transformations? For many scholars, the "projects" are just a colossal landscape of a Nation State failure. For others, what has terribly failed is the competence of architecture as a techne of social ordering.
”Ambivalent Spaces” offers a critical insight to the most significant urban laboratories of the Twentieth century. The essays – written by scholars from Germany, Puerto Rico, Argentina, and Poland, discussed and contrast historical experiences in cities as dissimilar as Berlin, San Juan, México, Istanbul, Santo Domingo, Leinefelde and Tirana. Differences between cities are as striking as their cultural contexts. But researchers agree in what Dr. Florian Urban – one of the authors – concluded: "housing estates are an ambivalent heritage". To revisit their historical concepts and architectural designs is a way of learning in present what in the past we could not about the paradoxes of modernist urbanism. (Jorge Lizardi/ Martin Schwegmann)
Jorge L. Lizardi, Martin Schwegmann (Hrsg.)
Ambivalent Spaces: histories, memories and oblivion of social housing architectures
University of Puerto Rico and Ediciones Callejón, San Juan 2011