2nd shift – REST/PRIVACY


Workers villages and company towns were usually constructed as simple habitable units with low cost construction structures and prefabricated materials, following the advances in construction technology. What happens to the workers’ houses after the factories close?

58. Housing, HICA (Cávado river hydroelectric plant). 1945-1964. Teófilo Rego Archive, Casa da Imagem – Manuel Leão Foundation, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal.


In order to build houses for their workers, industrialists have not always been concerned about health and safety. Today, what are the EU standards for the construction of workers’ housing?

59. Image with the title “Household during capitalism”, in a socialist era photo album. Period of State Socialism, 1944-1989. Interactive Museum of Industry, Gabrovo, Bulgaria.

Private housing are relevant extensions of industrial settlements. The evolution of public and private space in the labour world is associated with the always unstable work-life balance. In the historical evolution of industrial spaces we may identify they are strongly characterised by differences in gender, access to education, hygienic-sanitary concerns, demographic issues and economic power. To mitigate these tensions, different political regimes and ideologies of entrepreneurship have defined urbanistic plans for industrial settlements. They propose to improve the quality of space in workers’ lives and, therefore, improve the life of citizens. Private housing, spaces for socialising, training and education, religious enclosures and, at the centre, the factory, were organised in the name of progress – whether economic, social, or political. But, they also exert control and surveillance over the workers.

The planning of industrial sites, and later the principles of modern urbanism, proposed social and low-rent housing for workers, which led to the split of work space and private housing. Industry brought new inequalities and new modes of control and surveillance over the growing cities. The “industrial city” (Tony Garnier, 1917) would be an organised and integrated set of different spaces characterised by functional specialisation and zoning. These progressive ideals would permit controlling overpopulation and overbuilding on a given site.

Living near industrial infrastructures can be dangerous, as it became globally known in 2011 when a tsunami caused a flood at the Fukushima Daiichi I Nuclear Power Plant.Today, the contamination of the waters of the Pacific Ocean is a major concern as well as the return of the inhabitants of Okuma to their homes. Even so, despite the disaster, the emotional and collective attachment to the site endures in workers’ lives, as we can see in the collaborative project Real Fukushima where workers organise tours around the Nuclear Power Plant and their former houses.