How do we live in panel blocks?

статия 12

This article is part of our weekly series “Plattenbau stories”, introducing the topic of plattenbau districts in Europe and the world. ONE ARCHITECTURE WEEK 2016 will be held in Trakiya, a plattenbau districts in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, from September 30th until October 9th. The main focus of the festival is the topic of“citizen participation in the creation of the urban environment”.

An article from Urbanisztika, for the full version click here.

A study on plattenbau districts in Hungary from 2006 shows us that one third of the people living in Budapest live in a panel block and are actually content with their living situation.

The history of plattenbau districts in Hungary is similar to that of other former soviet countries – built to battle the rising needs of the housing market. In Budapest plattenbau districts can be found mainly in the outer districts and are well connected with the inner city via public transport facilities and suburban railway (HÉV) lines. Only a few of these districts are in the central part of Budapest.
As usual ideology is behind these buildings – the idea to have equally good living conditions for everyone. This was achieved via ‘house factories’ that are owned by the state. Interestingly enough private initiatives also known as cooperation exceeded state dwelling constructions at an average proportion of 60-40%.

In the early 60’s in Obuda (a hungarian town) an experimental district was built. It consisted of buildings, differing in their type, height and floor plans. About a million apartments were to be built during 15-year span, one fourth of them were to be completed in the first five-year period, known as “Petiletka” (Five-year Plan). In order to be able to do that factories for prefab panels were built in thirteen hungarian cities. And in the 70’s a Catalogue for Prefab Building Types consisting of type plans made by large architectural firms was assembled. The different categories were of buildings with a height of 5, 10 or 11 stories, consisting of one up to five sections and with three to ten apartments per story.

Even though there was a supposed equality in the distribution there were certain criteria by which the apartments were distributed. Some of them included the needs of larger families with smaller income and some included the position of the employee, in other words a  consideration of the family’s services for the state. This resulted in certain-class-only districts. Other social problems followed such as lowered housing prices due to the “bad name” of some of these places. The end result was ghettoisation.

This led to a slow but  perceptible migration in the 90’s that continues even today.
These districts were in a dire need of renovation and modernisation not only of the buildings, but of the environment as well. With such measures these districts reemerge as a well planned space with good infrastructure, green spaces, public services and apartments with better characteristics of those built today.

It seems that the only thing we need to be able to live a life of content in a plattenbau district is some care, renovation and a new perception of these places.