On the value of land and housing: urban development in Minsk and Warsaw after 1989

Kuletskaya, Dasha; Brück-Dürkop, Sabine (Thesis advisor); Kockelkorn, Anne (Thesis advisor); Schindler, Susanne (Thesis advisor)

Aachen (2023)
Dissertation / PhD Thesis

Dissertation, Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen, 2023, Kumulative Dissertation


What is the value of land and housing in times of financialized capitalism? This thesis applies the framework of critical urban theory to examine this question in the East-ern European context, taking Minsk and Warsaw as examples. It focuses primarily on the issues related to the commodification and financialization of land and housing while placing these local developments in a global context. Since the 1980s, the commodification and financialization of space have been ongoing all around the world as a part of general political-economic development, often referred to in social sciences as neo-liberalization. The growing interest of the global financial sector in residential real estate (i.e., the combination of land and housing) has led to the immense growth of its economic value. In 2018, residential real estate worldwide was valued at over 220 trillion USD, or more than 3.5 times the size of the global GDP. However, the local dynamics of this global trend vary greatly and are rarely ad-dressed in the Eastern European context. Although this development has far-reaching consequences for the built environment, it is largely ignored within the discipline of architecture. This dissertation provides some approaches to the new research agenda in the field of the history and theory of architecture to critically question the increasing commodification of land and housing. As examples from Minsk and Warsaw demonstrate, these global developments must always be embedded in their local historical context. Through the analysis of the housing projects of the speculative developer Dana Holdings in Minsk, I introduce the concept of legitimized architecture to investigate the role of laws, building codes, and regulations in facilitating the commodification of urban housing. While tracing the history of urban land reforms in Warsaw, this thesis high-lights the crucial role of ideology in the commodification of urban land. Moreover, it introduces the perspective of the economic value theory to discuss these developments through the lens of value creation. Importantly, it scrutinizes the popular concepts of use-value and exchange-value, often used as normative categories by scholars influenced by the tradition of critical urban theory. While tracing the development of these terms from their origin in classical economic theory till today, this dissertation highlights the inadequacies and shortcomings of their contemporary moralized application. Following the tradition of critical urban theory, this thesis rejects rigid disciplinary borders. It applies a mixed-method approach drawing on the methods developed in the fields of architectural history and theory, housing studies, political geography, and philosophy. Combining methods of historical research, investigative analysis, and conceptual analysis, I address the following research questions: -How is the concept of value being defined in relation to housing by different disciplines and stakeholders? Do concepts of use-value and exchange-value, popular among the scholars within the tradition of critical urban theory, have any potential for critically addressing issues related to the commodification and financialization of housing? -How is architecture as a professional practice influenced by and contributing to the increasing commodification and financialization of housing? How are various types of value associated with housing conditioning of and conditioned by architecture as a professional practice? -What are the specific characteristics of the increasing commodification and financialization of urban land and housing in Eastern European countries of the former Soviet Bloc? Do concepts such as post-socialism or post-socialist neoliberalism have any theoretical potential for addressing these issues? These questions are further specified in individual journal publications constituting this paper-based dissertation. The findings of this thesis highlight the need for expanding the agenda of architectural research to address the increasingly complex political-economic dynamics of contemporary urban development.


  • Bauplan Teaching and Research Unit [213220]