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In the first event in the Social Talks series, we revisit the century-old concept of the ‘minimum dwelling’ in the light of today’s urgent housing shortage. Conditions and living patterns have radically shifted over the past 100 years, but could this historic formula be a solution to modern problems? With contributions by Golnar Abbasi and Arvand Pourabbasi (WORKNOT!), and Giovanna Borasi (director of CCA). The evening will be moderated by Tara Lewis.

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“Develop good, affordable housing for everyone – especially for people who are in difficult circumstances, waste as little material as possible, use the latest knowledge in the design and construction process, and research the current essential requirements that a home must meet by studying the behavioural patterns of the inhabitants...” 

Given the present-day shortage of good and affordable housing, this formula for the ‘minimum dwelling’ could be at the forefront of current government policy. Yet this concept, and the social ambitions behind the idea, are a century old.

Back in the 1920s, when the concept of the minimum dwelling was developed, the ‘traditional Western family’ (consisting of a heterosexual couple with two children) dominated society. Today’s reality and social structures are far more nuanced. To quote the research programme Catching Up with Life (Canadian Centre for Architecture, 2021): 

“We might live alone, unmarried, childless, and for longer; we might live with our partner’s children, with strangers and siblings, with multiple generations in the same home; we have a more fluid understanding of gender roles, of work, and of love.”

If architecture can be seen as a support or a hindrance to emerging patterns of social relationships, how is it impacted by these transformations, and how does it inform our ideas about how to live together?

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Social Talks

Social Talks is the Thursday Night Live! series around the exhibition Designing the Social: 100 years of idiosyncratic living in the Netherlands.

Designing the Social is a multi-year exhibition that examines how Dutch society has been redesigned over the past century. Often, it turns out to have been committed citizens who devised radical design strategies. This can be seen in a series of installations about the ‘minimum dwellling’, the community centre, De Ploeg weaving mill, the design strategies of the second feminist wave, the squatters’ movement, and digital pioneers. For each theme, separate teams of curators, researchers and designers have investigated the connections between archival research and current social issues.

Thursday Night at Het Nieuwe Instituut
Luca Napoli

Thursday Night Live! is a weekly programme of lectures, screenings and discussions on architecture, design and digital culture. Developments and critical insights are discussed by thinkers, designers and makers from the Netherlands and abroad.