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The unresolved tensions of mass housing

Session in the Society of Architectural Historians Conference 2023

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Published on Thursday, May 12, 2022


This session invites contributions that examine the diffusion and transformation of mass housing projects worldwide. It focuses on how the processes and outcome of housing projects relate to programs of social reform, restructuring or coercion, in various cultural and political contexts from the 1920s to recent years.


"The Unresolved Tensions of Mass Housing", Session in the The Society of Architectural Historians 76th Annual International Conference in Montréal, Canada, April 12–16, 2023. 


Affordable mass housing projects of the twentieth century emerged in response to the severe shortages of the interwar years. For the first time, the state took on the role of patron of residential architecture. Housing became one of the primary objects of modernist architectural research, which approached it as a technical and economic problem. After the earliest transfers from a few western European centers to the Soviet Union and the Mediterranean beginning in the late 1920s, by the mid-twentieth century standardized modernist housing projects appeared worldwide, despite significant geographical, cultural, and political differences. In Latin America, where extreme poverty forced intense outmigration from the rural Andes into the cities, the state attempted to solve the problem of housing the poor while fostering the illusion that all sectors of society share in its wealth.

Critics of modernist mass housing projects have argued that many of the difficulties lay in the incongruence between theoretical models and reality, standards and actual ways of life, and the supposedly typical nuclear family as opposed to diverse living patterns. Yet another set of problems emerged in the translation of standard housing models from the Urals to the Caribbean, without proper adaptation to climate and local building practices, and under various political regimes. In many cases, architects failed to address the social and cultural aspirations of the intended inhabitants, exacerbating segregation and reinforcing endemic problems. In other cases, inadequate design standards for disenfranchised dwellers stemmed from the practices of totalitarian or corrupt regimes. This session invites contributions that examine these dynamics in mass housing worldwide, in various historical contexts up to the recent years, with a focus on how the process and outcome relate to programs of social reform, restructuring or coercion, political action and other forms of community intervention.

Submission guidelines

Abstracts must be under 300 words.

The title cannot exceed 65 characters, including spaces and punctuation.

Abstracts and titles must follow the Chicago Manual of Style.

Only one abstract by an author or co-author may be submitted (to either a Montréal session or a virtual session)

A maximum of three (3) authors per abstract will be accepted.

Please attach a two-page CV in PDF format.

Abstracts are to be submitted online on the conference website

by June 7th 2022.

Session chairs

  • Aniel Guxholli, McGill University
  • Valentina Davila, McGill University


  • Montreal, Canada

Event attendance modalities

Hybrid event (on site and online)


  • Tuesday, June 07, 2022


  • housing, architecture, urban planning


  • Aniel Guxholli
    courriel : aniel [dot] guxholli [at] mail [dot] mcgill [dot] ca

Information source

  • Aniel Guxholli
    courriel : aniel [dot] guxholli [at] mail [dot] mcgill [dot] ca


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« The unresolved tensions of mass housing », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, May 12, 2022, https://doi.org/10.58079/18w9

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