From acceptera to Vällingby: The Discourse on Individuality and Community in Sweden (1931-54)
The Swedish suburb of Vällingby, completed in 1954, culminated an investigation into the housing problem which can be traced back to the functionalist manifesto acceptera of 1931, where the issue of finding a ‘Middle Way’ between the individual and the mass, the personal and the universal was presented as being as central to the project of modern architecture as it was to Social Democracy as a whole.
The ebb and flow of discourse on housing and policy during the 30s and early 40s engaged directly with the binary of private individualism/public collectivism, drawing on the thinking of figures such as Ellen Key, Torgny T. Segerstedt and Lewis Mumford to arrive at neighbourhood planning as a suitable foil to both the laissez-faire of the capitalist system and the monotonous and alienating results of early attempts at mass social housing.
While Vällingby provided improved dwellings and amenity, setting new standards in terms of efficiency, economy and convenience, these very qualities, it is suggested in conclusion, also mask the ‘unfreedoms’ of the modern welfare state, which in the case of Vällingby might be seen as the Social Democratic bias towards a ‘group society’ at the expense of true self-determination.
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