‘Obama, Please Tax Me!’: Architecture and the Politics of Redistribution


  • Tom Avermaete
  • Dirk van den Heuvel




This issue of Footprint is based on the conference session ‘The European Welfare State Project – Ideals, Politics, Cities and Buildings’ as organized by the editors at the first EAHN Conference in Guimarães, Portugal in 2010, and as elaborated in the second EAHN Conference in Brussels, Belgium in 2012 (together with Mark Swenarton). These sessions were proposed as part of the research programme ‘Changing Ideals – Shifting Realities’ at the TU Delft, which aims to further disclose, map and question the architectural culture of the second half of the twentieth century.

It focuses on how the welfare state in Western Europe represents a unique time frame in which manifold shifts within the modernist discourse in architecture and planning were paired with societal changes that established new assemblages between producers, designers, governments, clients, builders and users. It is part of the editors’ assumption that the current crisis of capitalism puts the politics of redistribution back on the agenda. In re-investigating the vast legacy of the welfare state, it seems only natural to look for new models for collectivity, not to dwell in nostalgia, but indeed to find alternatives to suit the new situation. At the intersections of building practice, architectural viewpoints, national and local cultural contexts, a nuanced image of welfare state architecture emerges.