This international conference was co-chaired by Janina Gosseye and Hilde Heynen. It took place at the KULeuven Architecture Department between 16 and 18 February 2012. The Call for Papers posited that:

The development of the European welfare state started in the late 19th century as a reaction to processes of modernization and accelerated around the mid-20th century, after the massive destruction caused by two world wars. Caught between American corporate capitalism and Soviet communism, the welfare state devised a specific European answer to Cold War politics. In most European countries, this resulted in the construction of planning institutions and new bureaucracies, facilitating the redistribution of wealth, knowledge, and political power as well as the implementation of new building programs such as mass housing and social infrastructure. In this context of economic growth and rising prosperity, many Western European countries also outlined a set of policies designed to mitigate social antagonisms. Such policies not only targeted education, social security, and health care, they also democratized the right to leisure. Besides housing programs, the European welfare state thus gave rise to an elaborate infrastructure of leisure.

Two seemingly opposing tendencies prevailed in this period. There was on the one hand an impoverishment of public space, brought about by increasing car mobility, suburban growth and the rise of a ‘television-culture’; developments which negatively affected the vivid social life that used to flourish in streets and squares and simultaneously lured people towards ‘easy’ leisure activities of more questionable moral value. Authorities and social organizations on the other hand attempted to counter this evolution by constructing different types of ‘leisure centers’ (cultural centers, swimming pools, sports centers, recreational domains, holiday camps, etc.) where people could meet, restore their threatened social relationships and devote themselves to uplifting cultural activities. This undertaking led to an increasing interiorization of ‘public’ space in buildings for collective use.

This conference aimed to investigate these interacting tendencies and the collective spaces and buildings they produced. We invited contributions situated at the nexus of architecture discourse, building practice, and national and local cultural contexts and encouraged academics from a wide range of disciplines, including architecture and the built environment, history, sociology, geography, and cultural studies to apply. While the conference focused primarily on Western Europe, we also welcomed contributions from the other side of the Iron Curtain.


Keynote speakers were: Christoph Grafe (TUDelft, The Netherlands), Janina Gosseye, Hannah Lewi (University of Melbourne, Australia) and Tom Avermaete (TUDelft, The Netherlands).

The conference received financial support from the Flanders Research Foundation (FWO), and the scientific committee consisted of: Tom Avermaete (TUDelft, The Netherlands), Maarten Delbeke (UGent, Belgium), Janina Gosseye, Christoph Grafe (TUDelft, The Netherlands), Hilde Heynen (KULeuven, Belgium), Hannah Lewi (University of Melbourne, Australia), André Loeckx (KULeuven, Belgium), Barbara Penner (The Bartlett, UK), Dominique Rouillard (ENSA Paris-Malaquais, France), Ruth Soenen (St Lucas, Belgium) and Leen van Molle (KULeuven, Belgium).

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Full conference proceedings were printed. A digital copy of the conference proceedings can be downloaded here.