Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-7635

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Built Space Hinders Lived Space: Social Encounters and Appropriation in Large Housing Estates

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Abstract:  The fundamental structural, demographic, and socio-economic changes afflicting large housing estates in Eastern German cities raise questions about how these neighborhoods could be maintained and developed into attractive residential locations where people want to live and settle down. Besides personal, social, economic, and even administrative factors, individual location decisions are influenced by the physical conditions of space and how they affect a sense of “home”—a crucial precondition for long-term habitation. In terms of urban planning and regeneration activities, we ask: To what extent do the current physical and infrastructural conditions (“built space”) of large housing estates encourage residents to “feel at home”? We understand home as an atmosphere of well-being and belonging that is based on the individual and communal appropriation of spaces, which in turn presupposes the possibility of contact and social exchanges among neighbors. The concept of “home” we present here is grounded in philosophical anthropology, new phenomenology, and architectural theory. It provides a specific spatial approach to housing from which we develop indicators to evaluate space. In particular, we apply the concept of “lived space” to evaluate infrastructural amenities, open and green spaces, as well as built structures in three case studies of large housing estates in East German cities. We aim to uncover local potentials for and obstacles to spatial appropriation and encounters in these settings. This allows us to draw conclusions on how urban regeneration policies and measures can make large housing estates more liveable in the long term by promoting encounters and appropriation.

Keywords:  home; large housing estates; migration; public space; social encounters; urban planning; urban regeneration



© Katja Friedrich, Stefanie Rößler. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.