From post-war modernisation to the ideal of the future: the large housing estates in the perspective of degrowth.


  • Izabela MIRONOWICZ Gdańsk University of Technology


degrowth, large housing estates, models of urban transfromation




Large housing estates built using industrialised technology were, and still are, an important part of the housing stock of many European cities (Rowlands, Musterd and van Kempen, 2009). In the face of wartime devastation and continuing urbanisation, their construction was often the only available way to meet the housing needs of a growing urban population. These estates offered residents a step-change in their living conditions, yet they became the subject of negative narratives (Zupan, 2021).

An in-depth study of the functional and spatial transformations that took place between 1990 and 2020 in six selected large housing estates located in cities of three former ‘Eastern Bloc’ countries (Brno, Wroclaw, Dresden) has led to interesting conclusions regarding the key urban indicators, the organisation of space and other factors influencing the quality of life in these estates (Porada, 2023).

I deliberately do not conceptualise the location of the case studies as ‘post-socialist cities’, as I share Hirt's (2016) argument challenging this conceptualisation as not well grounded in the actual evidence.

The results and conclusions of the research on housing estates are examined against the selected postulates of degrowth that relate to cities or urban policies (Cosme, Santos and O’Neill, 2017; Monbiot, 2020; Savini, 2021; Fitzpatrick, Parrique and Cosme, 2022). Degrowth is defined here as the planned and democratic reduction of production and consumption to address environmental and social crises.

I will show that many of the solutions applied in large housing estates can support not only the postulates of degrowth but also other urban policies, such as climate adaptation plans. I argue that large housing estates, in many key solutions, can serve as a model for degrowth transformation in cities.


Cosme, I., Santos, R. and O’Neill, D.W. (2017) ‘Assessing the Degrowth Discourse: A Review and Analysis of Academic Degrowth Policy Proposals’, Journal of Cleaner Production, 149, pp. 321–334.

Hirt, S., Ferenčuhová, S. and Tuvikene, T. (2016) ‘Conceptual forum: the ‘post-socialist’ city’, Eurasian Geography and Economics, 57:4-5, pp. 497-520.

Monbiot, G. (2020) Private Sufficiency, Public Luxury: Land is the Key to the Transformation of Society. Fortieth Annual E. F. Schumacher Lecture, October 25, 2020. Available at: (Accessed 3 September 2023).

Fitzpatrick, N., Parrique, T. and Cosme, I. (2022) ‘Exploring degrowth policy proposals: A systematic mapping with thematic synthesis’, Journal of Cleaner Production, 365, 132764.

Porada, A. (2023) Przekształcenia wielkich osiedli mieszkaniowych w Europie Środkowo-Wschodniej po transformacji ustrojowej 1989 na przykładzie zespołów z Drezna, Brna i Wrocławia”. PhD Dissertation, under supervision of I. Mironowicz. Wrocław University of Technology.

Rowlands, R., Musterd, S. and van Kempen, R. (eds.) (2009) Mass housing in Europe. Multiple faces of development, change and response. Houndmills, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Savini, F. (2021) ‘Towards an urban degrowth: Habitability, finity and polycentric autonomism’, Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, 53(5), pp. 1076–1095.

Zupan, D. (2021) ‘De-constructing crisis: post-war modernist housing estates in West Germany and Austria’, Housing Studies, 36(5), pp. 671-695.