Residential history and health in housing
What methodology should be adopted to investigate the emergence of a new demand for healthy housing in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis ? What are the variables of health and well-being (infection, social conflicts, stress) that are now integrated into inhabitants’ perceptions of the architecture and the urbanism in which they live ? What places and spaces are concerned ?
In making the hypothesis that health and well-being open up a new field of investigation in the study of housing conditions, revealing new possibilities and difficulties in the art of building, we situate the voice of inhabitants within the framework of building logics.
These are understood as social forms made of interactions, everyday actions, regulations, as well as fears and rumors. Residential history is firstly the result of a project ; that is, an individual or collective will to have individuals live together within a given physical framework. A collective life then develops within a framework of co-ownership, cooperative building, social housing, etc. Social morphology, which states that inhabitants appropriate space according to both the way they themselves perceive it, and how they perceive themselves (Halbwachs, 1960), offers keys to understanding the interaction between the lives of individuals and groups within a residential complex.
Consequently, sociology and housing research has amply demonstrated the importance of the principle of mobility, which expresses the possibility of being able to choose one’s place of residence as well as the ability to leave it. It has also emphasized the principle of proximity, which allows inhabitants to isolate themselves while being close to places of exchange. The principle of adaptability consists of allowing each inhabitant to modify, during their lifetime, the layout of their apartment according to the presence of children and their age, along with their occupations and forms of work. The principle of narrativity recognizes the possibility of each inhabitant to develop a narrative expressing their capacity to master their environment and to express, for example, their acoustic stress. Narration is rooted in both a principle of distinction (i.e. being able to represent oneself through the place one inhabits, according to the address, facade and social ornaments and the search for recognition. It thus corresponds to the residential history of households as recounted in their trajectories (Fijalkow et al., 2021).
The SAPHIR Program, a participatory methodology
We selected a sample of 12 buildings according to the following criteria : year of construction (and therefore of standards, notably thermal and phonic), physical density, location in the city, access to services, occupancy status (co-ownership, social housing) and type of population (age and income groups). The objective was to produce monographs of buildings, reconstructing their history and memory through archives and interviews in order to question the way in which respective pasts intervene (or not) in the spatial crisis of the lockdown. A second phase first proposes a study of apartment plans and their reorganization through « inhabited surveys » ; and then, a series of interviews carried out with inhabitants allowing for an investigation of the notion of well-being. In this context, we examined their residential trajectory, their relationship to the neighborhood, their experience during the lockdown period, their relationship with managers, as well as the architecture of the housing. Finally, focus group workshops were held in each building in order to draw up a diagnosis and assessment of the quality of the housing. Elements that appeared to the researchers in previous phases of individual interviews and household surveys were developed, amplified or minimized. It is therefore a questioning collective using visual sociology techniques, such as an ordinary image commentary that, by analogy, we ask the public to relate to their situation as inhabitants, making it possible to highlight management problems.
Of the 12 buildings in our sample, we will present here three narrative mobilisation of building history. The three sites are situated to the east of the capital and are geographically close, located less than 10km apart.