The Concept of Appropriation in Collective Housing Design

Understanding Dwelling as a Poetic Practice


  • Nevena Novaković



The article aims to contribute to the theoretical debate on collective housing design by focusing on dwelling as a poetic practice. More precisely, it explores the methodological potential of the concept of appropriation that fosters the understanding of dwelling as the creative practice of human self-realization through space. It does so by interpreting selected writings of Henri Lefebvre and bringing forward exemplary housing projects. The theoretical review concludes with several principles of housing design that underline the importance of the continuity, overlapping and ‘softness’ of dwelling space. Moreover, the article conceptualizes appropriation as an analytical tool for reading the transformation of existing space made by residents. Appropriation narratives, in this way, enable housing design to understand and consider the spatial characteristics that contribute to meaningful emotional connections between space and people on different scales.

Author Biography

Nevena Novaković

Nevena Novaković is an assistant professor at the University of Banja Luka Bosnia and Herzgovinia, Faculty of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geodesy, where she teaches courses in the field of Urban Design and Urban Theory. Nevena obtained her doctorate from the University of Belgrade, Faculty of Architecture, in 2014. She was a visiting scholar at the University of Michigan in 2008 and the University of Glasgow in 2018. Her research and scholarship focuses on urban form theory and urban form contemporary research at different scales, from collective housing to metropolitan urban territories.


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Lefebvre was a cofounder of the Institute in 1963 and its president until 1973. Its contemporary successor is Le Centre de recherche sur l’habitat (CRH), currently located at the École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Paris-Val de Seine.

Le Centre de Recherche sur l’Habitat (CRH),

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Henri Lefebvre, ‘Utopie expérimentale: pour un nouvel urbanisme’, Revue française de sociologie 2-3 (1961), 191-198.

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