PAIDOPOLEIS. The Built Legacy of Child Welfare Organisations in Postwar Greece and Switzerland

Doctoral Candidate: Maria Kouvari

Conjoining case studies from Greece and Switzerland, this project explores the built legacy for children separated from their families, victims of war, disease, and malnutrition, in the aftermath of the WWII. In response to an enormous deficit in child protection, Swiss-based international aid agencies, such as the ICRC, the Don Suisse, the UNESCO, and the UNICEF established international networks for child welfare and circulated ideas, planning practices, materials, and experts beyond national borders. In 1946, the Swiss Relief constructed two children’s villages or Paidopoleis in Greece, consisting of prefabricated military barracks. Soon afterwards, children’s villages appeared in the form of permanently-built child communities in the two countries, including the work of established architects, such as Hans und Annemarie Hubacher, Constantinos Doxiades, and Emmanuel Vourekas. Lying at the intersection of broader movements of pedagogical reform and sociopolitical agendas, the built environment of these institutions witnessed an underrepresented minority of children deprived of parental care, not only due to war and poverty, but also to discrimination and disability. The aim of this research is twofold: first, to map and document the built artifacts of these institutions, and second, to address their heritage today. It attempts to answer the following questions: the pedigree of this architecture and its relation to social, educational, and hygienic theories on childhood; the role the international exchange and expertise played in child welfare policy, and its physical realization in Greece and Switzerland; and for whom and why this heritage is important, even today. The methodology entails site visits for the inspection and documentation of the buildings, archival research, and the discussion of oral testimonies. This research builds on contemporary debates within the areas of childhood studies, international organizations, architectural history, and preservation theory.

This project is co-financed by the Sophie Afenduli Foundation, the Foundation for Education and European Culture (IPEP), and the Money follows Researcher Initiative of the German Research Foundation (DFG).