PhD ・ Academic Researcher ・ Architect

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Techwood Homes (1934-1936) Atlanta, USA

Collective Housing Atlanta-Vienna: Mapping Interwar Connections

Scientific Exchange Project

Period: February 2020 – April 2020

Institution: Emory University, Atlanta USA

Funding: Swiss National Science Foundation Scientific Exchange Grant

Budget: 4,200 CHF

In collaboration with Prof. Christina E. Crawford, the exchange research project carried out at the Art History Department of the Emory University in Atlanta, U.S. expanded the interwar architectural map to establish connections between the European and American housing initiatives. Particularly, through a detailed investigation of the ties between the Viennese estates and urban policies and the public housing projects realized in Atlanta, the research established Atlanta’s role as a clearinghouse for European social housing ideas, and as the site of the earliest home-grown public housing precedents in U.S. Of particular interest for the research was the figure of Charles Forrest Palmer, Atlanta real-estate mogul turned housing crusader behind the slum clearing projects. He traveled to Europe in 1934 to document low-cost housing policies which could be worthy of possible replication in Atlanta. He visited the housing estates in Italy, Germany, Austria, Poland, the USSR, the Netherlands, and the UK. Vienna was a key site of investigation for Palmer.

The first goal was to produce new historical knowledge concerning the Palmer’s mission in Vienna.
Hundreds of archival documents at Emory University’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, & Rare Book Library, such as correspondances, plans, photographs, notes, booklets, have been collected.
The second goal of the research plan was to explore the architectural results of the accomplishments in Atlanta. This activity focused specifically on Techwood Homes, the first public housing project realized in U.S. thanks to the initiative of Charles F. Palmer. Funded researcher collected architectural information from the archival plans and photographs, in order to produce new graphic documents about Techwood Homes.
The Exchange project provided new knowledge about the architectural influences and relationships between American and European public housing approaches. It provided a wider understanding of the wealth of social housing solutions and their interrelation in the Interwar period.
The originality of the Exchange project reside in the fact that it is the first architectural study on this topic. The comparative approach and the analytical tools adopted in the research highlighted not yet well-known connections between Viennese housing accomplishments and first American public housing project. In terms of urban density, dwelling typology and landscape design for instance, they revealed strong relationships and unexpected convergences. This research did not highlight simply that public housing in U.S. originated from Europe. The main result of this study is the housing initiatives from the Interwar period are not only considered as a regional phenomenon, but as a global one.