The National Museum of Science and Technology of Catalonia (mNACTEC) organised the International Congress on “Workers’ Settlements and Factory Towns” from 4 to 6 October 2018 in Terrassa.

The aim of this academic gathering was to address the issue of worker housing and to draw up an inventory and status of the issue on as comprehensive a basis as possible, alongside remaining examples and witness accounts of the centuries of industrialisation.

The congress was organised by the mNACTEC, in partnership with the International Committee for the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage (TICCIH), APIC (the Association for the Industrial Heritage of Champagne-Ardenne Grand Est), the Association for the Protection of the Heritage of the Sedó Factory Town and Surroundings, and Esparreguera Local Council.

Contents of the congress

The daily seminars addressed a range of topics: the issue of worker housing; the successive periods, diversity and different forms of workers’ settlements; morphology and spatial organisation; organisation of everyday spaces as a reflection of working conditions, and employers’ proposals and mediation.

The congress went beyond fieldwork to include other disciplines such as the history of science and technology, sociology, architecture, urban planning, economic and social history and other facets.

The presentations at the congress were provided by experts in the field from Spain, France, Russia, Argentina, Chile, Hungary and Mexico. The topics addressed included worker housing in France, the factory towns of the Urals, the urban planning of factory towns, the factory town as an overall profitability strategy, workers’ settlements in the nitrate industry in the Atacama Desert, the railway towns of the world, among other subjects.

Aside from the presentations, there were 25 expert announcements in the field.


Prior to the international Congress, the mNACTEC had already organised two colloquiums in the field of worker housing: the Seminars on Worker Housing in Catalonia (2002) and the Congress on Worker Housing and Industrial Company Towns on the Iberian Peninsula (2005). The proceedings of both gatherings were edited and published jointly by mNACTEC in 2008.

Following on from these seminars, a number of studies have been published and gatherings staged in the field, in particular under the organisation of the TICCIH: “From worker housing to social housing”, organised by TICCIH-Spain in 2014 in Parla (Madrid), and the French language publication Villages ouvriers et villes-usines à travers le monde, a collective work including 250 examples of worker settlements worldwide, published by APIC and the Université de Savoie-Mont Blanc in 2016.

Further information

Website of the Congress on “Workers’ Settlements and Factory Towns”