Building supply store 2.0

Practices and Materialities of Urban Self Building and Frugality

Bernd KniessKatja Heinecke & Hans Vollmer

Under the title “Building supply store 2.0” (Drotschmann 2010), the project will examine the current boom in DIY (cf. Friebe/Ramge 2008). However, cost-effectiveness and frugality did not just become a central motif of DIY during the heyday of the do it yourself movement in the 1960s (cf. Brodersen 2003), oscillating between the poles of “forced economising” and “savings option”. Self build is understood here as the practices and forms of the non-professional conversion and extension of the urban living space. With the combination of DIY and the “urbanised society” it becomes clear that “urban self build” does not just represent a “self-help programme in crisis regions and times”, but is a praxis and logic inherent in urbanisation.

Up to now an approach based on planning and architectural history has primarily directed its attention to the planning, development and building phases of apartment buildings and housing estates and the changes to them brought about by war damage and programmatic phases of modernisation and refurbishment. There are hardly any systematic studies of the constructional changes and modifications carried out by residents (cf. Schubert 2004: 14). Against the background of an “urban restructuring without growth”, the sub-project, beginning with Hamburg, takes up this research desideratum to explore the character of cost saving and cost effective building and living on the basis of the changes and use of existing structures by the user (cf. Burckhardt 1980 and Schubert 2004:14). Throughout, the empirical focus is the self build practices of residents in post-suburban single family houses as well in urban apartment buildings and housing estates. This is guided by the thesis that urban self build, in relation to the available materials and economic possibilities and conditions, realises a situative usage requirement.