Conferences – Meeting/Conference

Housing the family. People, things and resources in changing welfare regimes and in new planning structures: locating the single-family home in Germany

The interdisciplinary and international conference of the BMBF-research association "The flow of things or private property? A house and its objects between family life, resource management and museum" at the University of Münster will take place from 6th-8th april 2018.

  • Date: 06.04.2018 – 08.04.2018
  • Institution: Westfälischen Wilhelms-Universität Münster
  • Location: Münster / Deutschland
  • Sign up with: Anna Winkler unter volkskunde.institut[at]
  • Event contribution: Free of charge

Conference site:

Kardinal-von-Galen-Ring 50
48149 Münster

directions (download pdf)

The detached single-family house is a vast heritage of the Fordist decades in the 20th century. Overall, two of three households in Germany are situated in a single-family house (in 2011). The single-family house materializes the political support of a way of living and dwelling since the 1950s, and it symbolizes dreams of home, prosperity and social status. Today, West German suburbs especially in small towns mainly consist of single-family homes built in the decades 1950 to 1980. In this situation, municipal administration and local politics nearly at once are confronted with emptying single-family house areas at the edge of villages and small towns. 'Housing the family' as a conference is prompted by the intensive and growing demand for knowledge on the transformation of suburban and rural dwelling and living in the contexts of demographic changes, of new, asset-based welfare regimes, new planning structures, and within the implementation of an ecological framework in resource use and waste management.

The conference intends to work as a hub and relay in two directions:

  1.  It wants to bring into contact the latest but dispersed research on the single-family house in Germany from different disciplinary approaches, like architecture, resource management, social history, history of the built environment, anthropology, museum studies, planning and urbanism, and to connect this with the findings and analytical perspectives of the international new housing studies.
  2. It wants to bring into contact current research with the municipal authorities especially in small towns and in rural areas.

This conference is the closing event of the BMBF-research association “Der Lauf der Dinge oder Privatbesitz? Ein Haus und seine Objekte zwischen Familienleben, Ressourcenwirtschsaft und Museum”, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research in the program “Die Sprache der Objekte. Materielle Kultur im Kontext gesellschaftlicher Entwicklungen”. It includes the visit of the final exhibition of this research association in an open-air museum, thus also addressing the task of communicating knowledge on a popular object to the broader public. This issue is quite pending in all efforts to deal with single-family houses as a vast, often problematic material heritage in German suburbia, that consists not only of a historical stock of buildings from the second half of the 20th century, but also of a stock of habits and mindsets, and that in the meantime continuously spreads anew by fulfilling families’ wish to build a new home.


Day 1: 6th April 2018 (friday)

Welcome coffee

introduction by the BMBF-research association Hausfragen (Elisabeth Timm with project partners Sabine Flamme, Christiane Cantauw, Uwe Meiners)

Panel A: Built and inhabited: living in a single-family house

How do people organize their everyday in a single-family home today? Is there any resonance between couples with small children who recently moved into a newly developed suburban area, and old couples or mostly an old woman who spend/s their/her retirement in a large house in the older, neighboring single- family-home-area? What are the specificities of the single-family home as an ideal of continuity and security across generations in Germany? How do people deal with the suburban single-family home as an intimate good of consumption, as an investment and/or as an inheritance vis-à-vis changing welfare regimes and in confrontation with declining current value of their estates especially in rural areas?

Rural, suburban, urban: detecting variants of the single-family home in Germany
Wagenknecht, Katherin (Münster/GER)

Family life in building stock: second hand houses in German suburbs
Mlejnek, Marius (Münster/GER)

Two homes: revisiting a French type of dwelling
Chevalier, Sophie (Amiens/FR)

coffee break

Panel B: Home treasures: mining the single-family house

How is the postwar stock of single-family homes that has been built from the 1950s to the 1980s used and adapted in the context of demographic change and in confrontation with the declining current value of these estates especially in rural areas, be it in individual solutions or in new municipal planning?  What are the economic and ecological potentials and challenges of the materials that make up this stock? What are the cultural and material values of the household and entertainment appliances that became famous as white goods or brown goods in consumption and economic history?

Single-family houses as urban mines
Flamme, Sabine (Münster/GER) with
Walter, Gotthard (Münster/GER)

Bulky waste – quantity, quality and factors of influence
Santjer, Manfred (Ahlen/GER)

ReHABITAT_Converting detached houses into multiperson homes and the surprising effects on the discussion of values
Lindenthal, Julia (Vienna/AUT)


keynote/public evening lecture
Single-family homes in German suburbia - new aspects, stable qualities and increasing challenges regarding everyday life
Tintemann, Inken (Aachen/GER)

come together

Day 2: 7th April 2018 (saturday)

Panel C: Funded and administered: politics of the single-family house

How do couples who wish to build a new family house in suburbia, municipal administration, land market and local politics interact? Can we detect relations to the federal level of German housing legislation that promoted living in a suburban single-family home and supported this with public funds around the male-breadwinnner-family, the house and the related car-use since the 1950s? How do latest programs from EU-, national or regional authorities that aim to transform European suburbia into competing and growing regions, and the implementation of the principles of new public management interfere with this?

Gifting for homeownership: intergenerational support and first time home-buying in three contrasting welfare contexts
Druta, Oana (Amsterdam/NLD)

Land management in rural suburbia: planning tools and municipal realities
Köhler, Tine (Dortmund, GER)

Renting is wasting: on the popular economy of homeownership in Germany
Smigla-Zywocki, Jakob (Münster/GER)

coffee break

(continuation Panel C)

Single-family homes versus multi-family homes in metropolitan regions: a politico-economic analysis
Heeg, Susanne (Frankfurt a. M./GER)

bus ride to Museumsdorf Cloppenburg

welcome and lunch at restaurant DORFKRUG Museumsdorf Cloppenburg

guided tour in the exhibition "4Wände"
curator Wilgeroth, Cai-Olaf

coffee break

keynote/public evening lecture at Museumsdorf Cloppenburg
The predicament of the vernacular: semantic, cultural and environmental challenges to an academic concept
Vellinga, Marcel (Oxford, GB)

dinner at restaurant DORFKRUG Museumsdorf Cloppenburg

bus ride to Münster

Day 3: 8th April 2018 (sunday)

Panel D: Detached desires: popular visions and everyday memories of the single-family house

The rise of the single-family home throughout the 20th century has been triggered by new and changing media technologies (printing, photography, film). Vice versa, house or home and family have been central issues to make domestic picture production a mass business. Where and how were these sujets produced? How did such pictures circulate between public housing policy, the real estate and mortgage market, prefab manufacturers, family albums and super8-films, and guide books or TV-series (style guides, do-it-yourself-advice, home improvement)?

Dream house factories: What happened to the dream of the factory made house?
Gill, Julia (Berlin/GER)

California dreaming in West-German suburbia. Modernist bungalow architecture and its middle-class aspirations
Ebert, Carola (Berlin/GER)

Housing the Internet: spatial arrangements, everyday life practices and the mobilization of media
Peil, Corinna (Salzburg/AUT) with Röser, Jutta (Münster/GER)

coffee break

Panel E: Knowing and showing: documenting and exhibiting houses and homes

Beginning with the conservation in situ and/or the transfer of rural farm buildings into the World’s Fairs and other exhibitions at the middle of the 19th century, houses became the defining exhibit of a specific museum type: the open-air museum, probably the most popular institution within the European “rise of heritage” (A. Swenson). How did documentary and emblematic uses of vernacular houses as exhibits develop until today? What are the relations and trajectories between houses and homes inside and outside museums, between the suburban single-family dwellings and the open-air museum as a booming destination for family weekend trips? How does this contribute to merge and to promote detached homeownership and family life as a generic type of living, especially vis-à-vis (prefab) social housing, whose visual genealogy settles much more near the barracks than in cozy homes?

The Sunshine Boulevard in Germany - families, houses and cars in advertising
Caplan, Anne (Münster/GER)

Living and exhibiting: living is always a given-to-be-seen
Nierhaus, Irene (Bremen/GER)

Material/Heritage. The single-family home and the resource paradigm in historic preservation
Warda, Johannes (Weimar/GER)

coffee break

Public round table
Bernhard, Jörg, Freelancing Consultant, former Head of Human Resources, Stadtreinigung Hamburg and CEO Stilbruch GmbH, Hamburg (GER)
Druta, Oana, HOUWEL-project, University of Amsterdam (NDL)
Heinichen, Jutta, urban planning, municipality of Haltern am See (GER)
Hollstein, Andreas, Mayor of Altena (GER)
Nagel, Reiner, Federal Foundation of Baukultur, Potsdam (GER)
Lindenthal, Julia, Österreichisches Ökologie-Institut (AUT)

14:30 ff.
lunch (to go)

Please register till 15th March 2018 at
Anna Winkler
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Seminar for Folklore Studies/European Ethnology
Tel.: +49 251 83-24400
Fax: +49 251 83-28316
E-Mail: volkskunde.institut[at]

The conference is likewise the annual meeting of the Folklore Commission for Westphalia at the Regional Association of Westphalia-Lippe.
The attendance is free of charge.
The participation at the bus excursion on 7th April is only possible with prior registration. 

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