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1965 to 1989

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, it was still generally believed that nationalization and collectivization of large parts of the economy were essential in order to achieve fair redistribution, curb wasteful mass production and control inflation. By the end of the 1970s, however, deregulation and free-market ideology were being embraced as the antidote to stifling bureaucracy and economic stagnation.

In the Netherlands, the year 1965 marked the beginnings of the radical anarchist Provo movement, which proposed a set of policy alternatives to failing housing policies, oppressive policing, air pollution, consumerism and car ownership. Although non-violent by nature – in contrast to terrorist groups of the 1970s such as the Red Brigades in Italy and the Rote Armee Fraktion in West Germany – Provo is best remembered for setting off smoke bombs at the royal wedding in Amsterdam, in 1966. More importantly, Provo heralded a turbulent era of urban protest which would last throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Its special contribution was its combination of local action, political agitation and art happenings, addressing real urban planning issues.

1989, which famously saw the fall of the Berlin Wall, is perhaps an obvious choice for the second bookend. Yet along with the subsequent break-up of the Soviet Union and the gradual opening up of communist China to global trade, it marked a new and disruptive world condition – triumphant capitalism –replacing that of the Cold War era.

Architecture and Democracy

Where is architecture in this period? How did architects, planners, institutions and the building industry prepare for, and respond to, the shifting conditions –  to citizens’ protests and squatters’ movements, the first waves of immigrants from the former colonies, the first awareness of a burgeoning ecological crisis, and feminist critique? The overall picture is far from unambiguous. Whereas some chose to become activists and agents of advocacy planning, others pursued projects for autonomy – sometimes politically, sometimes aesthetically.

In light of the current political and ideological crises in liberal democracies around the world, the conference seeks to probe the complicated relationship between architecture and democracy during the 1965-1989 period. At what intersections was architecture able to propose a new, if precarious, balance between planning and citizens’ empowerment? How did this impact the disciplinary institutions of architecture and its epistemologies? And perhaps more speculatively, where do these shifting conditions leave architecture today, considering questions of democratic values, a ruthless market logic that penetrates all sectors of society, and a divisive populism dominating the public debate?

Open Architecture

We are happy to announce as keynote speaker Esra Akcan, Director of the Institute for European Studies at Cornell University and author of Open Architecture: Migration, Citizenship and the Urban Renewal of Berlin-Kreuzberg.

Research Programme

The conference builds on the recently launched PhD programme Architecture and Democracy, as supported by TU Delft and Het Nieuwe Instituut. The initial call for papers can be found here.


The publication Architecture and Democracy 1965-1989: Urban Renewal, Populism and the Welfare State is available for download.

Programme Wednesday 20 November

Location TU Delft

09.00 - 09.30 Opening
  • 09.00 Doors Open
  • 09.30 Opening words by Dirk van den Heuvel
09.45 - 11.15 Ideologies and Politics
Ambiguities and contestations in and of the welfare state

Moderated by Jorge Mejia Hernandez (TU Delft)

  • From ‘Le Droit à la Ville’ to ‘Rechte Räume’. Legacies and legends of the Movement for the Reconstruction of the European City.
    Isabelle Doucet (Chalmers University of Technology), Janina Gosseye (ETH Zürich) and Anne Kockelkorn (ETH Zürich)
  • Political Postmodernism. Architecture and democracy in Chile, 1975-1990.
    Lidia Klein (University of North Carolina)
  • Seeking to Salvage Italian Democracy. Architectural inflections of political compromise at the Estate romana, 1977-1985.
    Manuel López Segura (Harvard University)
  • From Harlem to New Haven. The emergence of the advocacy planning movement in the late 1960s.
    Marianna Charitonidou (ETH Zürich)

11.30 - 13.00 Community Actions
Protest, negotiatons and lived experience

Moderated by Alper Alkan (TU Delft)

  • From Vision to Reality. Emile Aillaud’s untenable arrangements at Cité de l’Abreuvoir and Cité Aillaud.
    Pari Riahi (University of Massachussetts Amherst)
  • An Epic Silent Film. Alexandra Road and the shifting grounds of welfare state housing in Britain.
    Tom Davies (Oslo School of Architecture and Design) and Luis Diaz (University of Brighton)
  • Sticky Architecture. Relating to Niagara Falls, New York.
    Monica Hutton (University of Toronto)
  • Design by Direct Democracy. Citizens as architects of urban renewal in Amsterdam.
    Aimée Albers (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)
14.00 - 15.30 New Forms of Citizenship
Emancipation, participation and representation

Moderated by Heidi Sohn (TU Delft)

  • Exploding School. Planning, participation and the Bulletin of Environmental Education.
    Tim Ivison (ArtCenter, SCI-Arc)
  • Architects' and Citizens’ Empowerment. Dutch architectural periodicals on ‘inspraak’ and ‘participatie’, 1959-1979.
    Elke Bruns and Dirk van de Vijver (Utrecht University)
  • Kirsti Nordin and Association 9. Feminist architectural practice and the turning point of the welfare state in Finland.
    Hanna Tyvelä (Tampere University)
  • ‘To Give Voice to What Has Heretofore Been Silent’. The ‘Third Zone’ and the crisis of representation in Ivry-sur-Seine's city center urban renewal, 1962–1986.
    Vanessa Grossman (ETH Zürich)
15.45 - 17.00 Concluding Panel
Architecture and democracy as a research programme
17.00 Drinks

Programme Thursday 21 November

Location Het Nieuwe Instituut

13.00 Doors Open
13.30 - 14.15 Archive Presentation

Presentations of selections from the National Collection for Dutch Architecture and Urban Planning by Ellen Smit and Maaike Waaldijk (Het Nieuwe Instituut)

14.15 - 15.45 Welfare State Conditions
From Biopolitics and economy to housing regulations

Moderated by Nelson Mota (TU Delft)

  • The Health of Democracy. Coop Himmelblau’s Entspannungsarchitektur and the expansion of the Austrian welfare state, 1970-77.
    Victoria Bugge Øye (Princeton University)
  • Notes on a Vanishing Act. Taxation, democracy, and architecture in U.S. housing between 1965 and 1989.
    Susanne Schindler (MIT, ETH Zürich)
  • Council Housing in the Age of Property-Owning Democracy and the Parker Morris Standards, 1960s-80s.
    Savia Palate (University of Cambridge)
  • The Hurray-mood of Wirtschaftswunder-culture. Constant, integration, and the Liga Nieuw Beelden.
    Bart-Jan Polman (Princeton University)


16.00 - 17.30 City Planning and Urban Renewal
Between commercialisation and de-colonisation

Moderated by Amy Thomas (TU Delft)

  • Brazilian Modernist Bus Terminal Stations. Desires for public architecture from Brasília to redemocratization.
    Diogo Mondini Pereira (University of São Paulo, FAPESP)
  • 1977 Kars Plan. Planning for a conflicted city in Eastern Turkey.
    Neşe Gurallar (Gazi University)
  • CastleCourt. The shopping centre as an imposed symbol of civic normality.
    Agustina Martire, Thomas McConaghie (Queen's University Belfast)
  • A Tale of Two Urban Futures. Dutch city centres in the age of affluence, 1960-1980.
    Tim Verlaan (University of Amsterdam)
19.30 - 21.00 Keynote Lecture

Open Architecture as Radical Democracy. Gentle urban renewal of Berlin-Kreuzberg by Esra Akcan (Cornell University). More information and tickets for this event

20 nov 09.00 – 17.00
Berlage Rooms
Faculteit Bouwkunde (Building 8)
Julianalaan 134
2628 BL Delft

21 nov 13.00 – 21.00
Het Nieuwe Instituut
Museumpark 25
3015 CB Rotterdam