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Separate Summer Homes

Separate Summer Homes: The Scandinavian Model of Leisure and its Changing Ideology during the Short 20th Century

Three phases in the development of second homes in Scandinavia is roughly distinguished, each highlighting interdependences between transport technologies, separate summer housing and leisure ideologies. Since relations between technology, housing and ideology are tightly connected, each phase is framed as a “transportation‐vacation housing complex” involving a dominant transport technology and a dominant type of vacation housing and ideological underpinning. The phases are “layered”, that is, new complexes are added to previous ones. For each complex, the project will treat problems such as: Which were the actors circulating the ideas and practices of separate summer homes? Did the circulation of ideas take place on an international level, if so, by which networks? How were these ideas received and appropriated at national, regional, and local levels?

A first phase can be identified during the interwar years and up to the end of WWII. Here, trains and boat ferries dominated as means of personal transport with a centrally organized and administered traffic flow as well as maintenance. Such collectively operated transportation systems had impact on the organization of separate summer housing during this first phase. For reasons of access, they had to be situated at the end of a railway line or near a boat landing. Thus, summer resorts were planned and built in order to house bourgeoisie on vacation. Such villages of seaside hotels, boarding houses etc. mushroomed from the late 19th century on the shores of Europe and America. Ideologically, the developments relied on ideas of health connecting to traditional spa life. Important actors, apart from real estate interests, were builders and railway as well as boat line operators.

In the second phase during the first decades after WWII, car use and access to leisure were democratised. An important prerequisite was the establishment of a minimum of two weeks vacation in the labour laws of many European countries in 1938. In Sweden, this was expanded to three weeks in 1951 and four in 1963. (In 1978, a minimum of five weeks of vacation was introduced.) Parallel to these developments, the numbers of cars quintupled in Sweden between 1950 and 1960. In 1960 more than 200 000 of about 2,5 million families owned a second home. Thus, the Scandinavian model prevailed, but was transformed. Besides summer cottages in the countryside—not seldom empty as a result of urbanization—being accessible by car, centrally planned “summer cities” typically located on the periphery of cities were erected. Ideologically, traditional family values as well as efficient break from professional life were often connected to leisure life in a summer cottage. Important actors supporting this process were the car lobby in close collaboration with tourist organizations and builders.

The third phase ranged over the decades 1970s and 1980s. Travel by air increased dramatically, while senior citizens on retirement plans became more numerous when public health policies were improved increasing life expectancy. In addition, they became wealthier as the public pension system was expanded. As a result, the geographical dispersion of separate homes, now more accurately denoted separate vacation houses, transcended borders. Air travel, being a collective form of personal transport, made villages of separate vacation homes appear in Spain, Greece, later Thailand and Brazil etc. Ideologically, the process was supported by ideas of meaningful life after retirement. This exploitation, driven by real estate agents, travel agents and building contractors, have typically been connected to tourism stressing of travel agencies and realtors.

Project researchers: Thomas Kaiserfeld (Project Leader) & Per Lundin

Project funding: European Science Foundation & Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet)

Period: July 2008 ‐ June 2011

Belongs to: Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment
Last changed: May 12, 2021