Tafuri on Hous-‘ing’: Housing History as City-making Praxis
Manfredo Tafuri’s assessment of modernist housing projects as “islands of realised utopia” summarises dilemmas still faced in the production of European cities today. In his writings, Tafuri has consistently shown that housing is not only about industrial production but, fundamentally, social reproduction. Understood as a discursive practice, the history of housing as a history of ideas reveals fundamental mechanisms in the production of urban space. The historian’s perspective necessarily engages with cycles of cultural production and economic enterprise, intertwined in endless discourse. On this basis, this article reviews the research methodologies distilled from Tafuri’s housing case studies in Berlin and Frankfurt, Vienna and Rome, in order to, firstly, re-evaluate the critical instruments of the housing historian, and secondly, trace their transformation as theoretical discourses into practices of city-making. Taking into account Tafuri’s notion of historical analysis as a contradictory, complex and constantly renewable operation, the paper proposes a revised understanding of twentieth-century housing history as a history of productive urban practices.
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