Domestication of the public realm in disadvantaged neighbourhoods

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From the post-war period, social housing in Denmark materialized the welfare state with modern apartment blocks promoting equality and community ideals. Large scale residential enclaves were built at high speed with a systematic approach by repeating uniform apartment blocks. As a result, many residential blocks appeared identical with repetitive facades. However, numerous residential areas from this period have substantially transformed over the past 50 years to adapt to today's housing standards, ideals, and energy optimization needs. For example, former open concrete balconies are enclosed with large glass and steel construction and the former open semipublic recreational areas between the apartment blocks are reduced to make room for private courtyards. As a result, the character of the edge zones around the apartment blocks has changed significantly towards more blurring boundaries between domestic life and the public realm.

Based on recent architectural-anthropological field studies in different disadvantaged social housing areas in Denmark, this paper investigates the blurring boundaries between domestic life and the public realm in disadvantaged social housing areas. Through interdisciplinary methods, we find that the physical and symbolic boundaries in the edge zones draw the residents further away from the public life in the recreational areas because domestic life is shield from the public realm by fences, hedges and glass. At the same time, the domestication of the public realm provides new opportunities for residents to gain insight into each other's social status and personal identity through the maintenance and use of the enclosed balconies and private courtyards. Finally, it discusses general lessons regarding the challenges and potentials of blurring boundaries in this in-between zone regarding future transformations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationENHR Barcelona 2022 : Book of Abstracts
PublisherEuropean Network for Housing Research, ENHR
Publication date1 Sept 2022
Article number65499
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2022
EventENHR Conference 2022 - Barcelona, Spain
Duration: 30 Sept 20212 Sept 2022


ConferenceENHR Conference 2022
Internet address


  • disadvantage housing areas
  • in-between
  • boundaries
  • semiprivate/private space


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