"They Weren't Prepared to Live in a Tower...". Questioning Ecological Determinism in a Disappearing Social Housing Estate

Monday, 16 July 2018: 11:30
Oral Presentation
João QUEIRÓS, Instituto de Sociologia da Universidade do Porto, Portugal
Building on the results of a fieldwork-based research in a social housing estate located in a riverfront area in Porto, Portugal, which is currently under a demolition process, this paper wishes to discuss the role of the built environment in the organization of local social relations, and to address the ways through which public authorities envisage this relationship in urban communities deemed as “degraded” and “problematic”. The scrutiny of public discourses on the relationship between urban form and the “social problems” that could and can be found in this social housing estate – which became central to the legitimation of the political decision to demolish it – is the point of departure for a critique of ecological determinism in the reasoning of urban matters. Although it’s evident local social relations and the everyday life of communities like this one are influenced by their physical set and surroundings, research among locals shows the built form is socially appropriated and adapted to significant social purposes and evidences that spatial and physical “solutions” such as demolitions are frequently inefficient solutions to the real social, economic and political problems faced by residents in segregated working class urban areas.