‘You can simply say no’

Narrating the effects and affects of Danish and Swedish housing in crisis

Sara Brolund de Carvalho, Maryam Fanni, Heidi Svenningsen Kajita, Jennifer Mack, Helena Mattsson, Svava Riesto and Meike Schalk

Published in Issue 6.1 // Conversations

Keywords: Housing, lived experience, crisis, affect, repressive politics, oral history


Narratives about the ‘failure’ of large-scale post-World War II housing are now guiding major physical, social, and economic changes in neighborhoods all over Europe. This is true even in Denmark and Sweden, which have long been known for their welfare states and benevolent housing policies. Today, however, both countries have enacted new national anti-segregation measures that call for major physical and social changes to neighborhoods built in the postwar era, even as the opinions of local communities and residents of such neighborhoods have been only sparsely heard – if at all. By working with the method ‘witness seminars’, we – as the research collective Aktion Arkiv – foreground residents’ perspectives and their collective resistance: the effects and affects of top-down changes. While sharing their lived experiences and actions, residents say that architects and planners can ‘simply say no’ and thereby refuse to participate in these actions.


Sara Brolund de Carvalho is an artist, architect, and lecturer at KTH School of Architecture. Her practice is situated in the borderland between architecture/urban planning and art. She is the co-editor, with Meike Schalk and Beatrice Stüde, of the publication Caring for Communities (Stockholm: Action Archive Publishing, 2019).

Maryam Fanni is a designer and PhD student in Design at HDK-Valand Academy of Art and Design, Gothenburg. She was a co-founder of the trans-disciplinary collectives Söderorts Institut För Andra Visioner (2013–2017) and Mapping the Unjust City (2015–), counter-mapping ownership and civil rights in the built environment.

Heidi Svenningsen Kajita is Assistant Professor in the Section for Landscape Architecture and Planning at the University of Copenhagen. Kajita’s research deals with the history and transformation of welfare state large-scale housing. She has a background in feminist pedagogy and in urban design practice; and she is co-founder of Bureaus.

Jennifer Mack is a Pro Futura Scientia Fellow of the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study and Associate Professor of Theory and History at KTH, Stockholm. She is the author of The Construction of Equality (2017), co-editor of Rethinking the Social in Architecture (2019) and Life Among Urban Planners (2020), and a member of the editorial boards of Thresholds, Human Organization, and Housing, Theory and Society.

Helena Mattsson is Professor of Theory and History at KTH, Stockholm. She is the co-editor of “Architecture and Capitalism” (Architecture and Culture, 2017); Neoliberalism on the Ground (2021), and the author of Architecture & Retrenchment: Neoliberalization of the Swedish Model (2023). She is on the board of the Journal of Architecture.

Svava Riesto is an Associate Professor of Landscape architecture history and historiography at the University of Copenhagen. Her research investigates questions of justice, ecology, and social change in relation to the buildings, cities and landscapes of the 20th century welfare states. Her most recent book is Untold Stores on women, gender and architecture in Denmark (with Steiner and Bendsen, 2023).

Meike Schalk is Associate Professor in Urban Design and Urban Theory at KTH, Stockholm. She examines spatial practices through a feminist lens. She is co-editor of Feminist Futures of Spatial Practice: Materialisms, Activisms, Dialogues, Pedagogies and Projections (2017) and Species of Theses and Other Pieces (2022).

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