Scientific project

The Centre for Habitat Research (CRH) comprises one of UMR LAVUE’s (CNRS 7218) five research teams. Located at the Paris-Val de Seine National Higher School of Architecture (ENSA Paris-Val de Seine), it brings together some twenty researchers and thirty doctoral students. The CRH combines architecture and the social sciences, and is characterized by interdisciplinary collaboration (between architecture, urbanism, geography, sociology, anthropology, political science, landscape architecture, etc.) as well as its involvement in non-academic circles through research contracts and citizen incorporation.

Researchers of the CRH dedicate their work to analyzing transformations in the anthropic and human habitat, addressing topics such as habitat, housing and living policies, the political processes of urban development through heritage and environmental issues, architectural and urban design actors, along with forms of engagement and living practices, as well as public and shared spaces.
Research settings are not only limited to France, but take place throughout the entire world.

Inhabited space, residential engagement and vulnerabilities

In line with the pioneering works on suburban private housing of the mid 1960s, the CRH has continued discussions surrounding inhabited space at the scale of housing as well as the neighborhood and its facilities. Part of this research questions the terms “to live” and “to reside”, studying different types of housing such as social, unstable or temporary, each of which present residential vulnerabilities to varying degrees. Another part addresses forms of engagement within this habitat, such as shared and/or communal living, social innovation or environmental awareness. Housing policy and residential choice are also studied, including working class neighborhoods subject to social reconfiguration. At the international scale, several works observe transformations in so-called traditional living environments as well as those brought about by globalization within processes of identification and appropriation of space.

The city’s making or unmaking

Since the 1980s, the CRH’s seminal work has analyzed changes in the ways in which a city is made through architectural and urban forms, along with social and spatial segregation.
Urban transformations are analyzed through the lens of public policy and the regulation of housing standards, heritage strategies, mobility as well as environmental and energy issues. They are also addressed from the perspective of profession, particularly that of architects and spatial development actors. Professional, inhabitant and citizen authority and legitimacy are also studied, along with the design-reception dialectic and the question of the city’s architectural and urban qualities.

Public spaces, environment and heritage

Urban ecology is considered through environmental and heritage lenses, dealing with practices and policies of public space, and for better use of resources. Environmental issues also concern the use of ecology in architecture, as well as in the transition towards the sustainable city and fuel efficiency, affecting elements like urban gardens, transportation infrastructure, water use, energy practices and landscapes. Questions of gender, along with the place of children are also linked to these challenges.
Public space is a place of identity construction and is shaped by heritage. The heritagization of buildings or neighborhoods are phenomena that often bring into confrontation representations, urban development projects or discourse, thus demonstrating the history and plurality of memory, whether it be congruent or conflictual, especially when involving immigration or so-called “undesirable” populations.

Theory, research, pedagogy

Works addressing participation and forms of knowledge sharing between researchers, architecture and urban planning professionals, dialogue mediators, inhabitants and engaged citizens impact the teachings of architecture and urbanism. They touch upon conflicts or controversies to which urban design projects give rise. CRH faculty members are committed to these questions, developing reflections on the forms, processes and content of teachings as well as on the intersection between disciplines and the academic world in schools of architecture and universities. They thus invite pedagogical innovation in the teaching of urban design projects, but also in the dissemination of knowledge.