Choosing Urban compact living: a case study of an unconventional housing choice of families in contemporary Denmark

Anne Hedegaard Winther

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
143 Downloads (Pure)


In a welfare society like Denmark, deliberately downsizing on dwelling space is at odds with prevailing norms of good housing. Furthermore, the city is perceived as a place for youth or younger single adults, whereas family life is perceived as belonging to suburbia. Yet this paper explores the housing choice processes of urban compact living: middle-class households living in the city in much less space than conventionally. Existing research on this is lacking. Taking an explorative approach, the study is designed to allow this new empirical field to unfold and aims at grasping and understanding the themes and narratives at play. The study focusses on families with children living in Copenhagen, a city lauded for its liveability and high housing conditions, and in which urban compact living is thus very controversial. The paper identifies living in the city as a paramount part of imaginaries of home to an extent that dwellings are deprioritised. However, living in the city and compact living are both attributed features such as progressivity, social awareness, unruliness, and anti-materialism. Introducing a cultural and social understanding of spaciousness, the paper argues that in such narratives, the city and compact living are perceived as physically compact, yet socially spacious.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Housing and the Built Environment
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)925-941
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V.


  • Ethnography
  • Housing choice
  • Lifestyle
  • Spaciousness
  • Urban compact living


Dive into the research topics of 'Choosing Urban compact living: a case study of an unconventional housing choice of families in contemporary Denmark'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this