Plan Documentation

Plan Documentation Global Housing

Affordable Housing for Developing Cities

In emerging economies all over the world, massive urbanization is leading to an urgent, acute need for affordable housing. Numerous plans and programmes have been developed to meet this demand. The plan documentation of this double issue, DASH – Global Housing, includes 16 projects covering a wide range of approaches and outcomes. The selected projects took place all over the world and cover a period of more than a century. The emphasis is both on the design of the individual dwelling and on the city as a whole.

Mass urbanization and the large-scale (affordable) housing challenges that go with it are not new phenomena. During the European industrial revolution, like in the Global South today, large numbers of rural residents immigrated to the cities looking for work and better living conditions. The cities of those days were hardly geared to such a challenge and this soon led to the emergence of slums, where people lived in appalling conditions. The earliest initiatives to improve such living conditions were taken by philanthropically-oriented, wealthy individuals. One of them was George Peabody, who in 1862 founded the Peabody Trust to provide sound housing for the working classes. The first project in this documentation, the 1908 Herne Hill Peabody Estate in London, is a case in point.

Today, cities like Delhi and Mumbai feature in the top five of the largest cities in the world, but in the 1920s it was New York that figured at the top of this list. Poor, working-class families lived crowded together in so-called ‘railroad’ and ‘dumbbell’ apartments, with daylight in only some of the rooms. Large-scale projects such as Queensbridge Houses (1938-1940) were realized to meet the huge demand for housing. At the time, the project was considered the largest public housing project in the United States.

The area around Luxor (Egypt) faced a housing problem of a slightly different nature in the late 1940s. Because of the grave theft undertaken by the poor, rural population of the village Gourna at the foot of the necropolis, the Egyptian Department of Antiquities felt compelled to relocate the entire village. Hassan Fathy made the design for this completely new village, New Gourna Village, taking into account local customs and construction methods.

After 1945, the return of war veterans and the wave of immigration from Europe again caused great pressure on the housing market in the United States. In response, William Levitt developed the suburban housing concept ‘Levittown’. In this DASH we cover Levittown New Jersey, now known as Willingboro.

In the late 1950s Spain, still suffering the effects of the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War, faced both a reconstruction process and the challenge to plan new urban developments to stop the further outgrowth of its slums. Built as satellites to Madrid between 1956 and 1966, the Poblados Dirigidos de Renta Limitada were intended to house the massive influx of immigrants from the rural areas. DASH covers the first Poblado Dirigido ever built: Poblado Dirigido de Entrevías.

Built shortly after the declaration of independence, Fria New Town (1956-1964) in Guinea is an example of an entirely new city, designed by the renowned urban planner and architect Michel Écochard. The city was designed to accommodate circa 20,000 inhabitants and shows a mix of modernist and traditional design principles.

In the 1950s in Ghana, the old Tema village that housed 12,000 inhabitants was relocated because it was situated in the prospective location of a new harbour. The new village, Tema Manhean, was designed by Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew on the basis of the hierarchical organizational model of an English New Town, only with compound dwellings that allowed a traditional way of communal living. In 1960, Constantinos Doxiadis was commissioned to make the plans for the neighbouring Tema New Town more efficient. Unlike Fry and Drew, he rejected the compound dwelling and created a plan with bungalows, terraced houses and apartment buildings that all targeted the modern nuclear family.

In the mid-1960s, a programme for a New Town for no less than 60,000 inhabitants was initiated in East London: Thamesmead. It was intended for, among others, families that had to be resettled because of the slum clearance process that took place in the inner city of London.

On the other side of the globe, in roughly the same period, the Peruvian city of Lima was facing an unprecedented urban population growth that was largely the result of migration from the countryside to the cities. Existing planning processes were unable to meet the demand for housing fast enough and at low enough cost. Between 1961 and 1667, the Caja de Agua district was realized on the basis of ‘incremental housing’.

In 1968, the project now known as Ekbatan was launched west of Tehran. Comprising more than 15,500 dwellings, it was to be the largest residential complex of the Middle East at the time. The design of the district was based on Western design and planning principles, as the then Shah meant to steer his country towards a more modern lifestyle. Shortly after, in 1975, Shushtar New Town – also in Iran – would show a totally different approach. The project, intended to house up to 30,000 people, is a unique example of a large-scale urban development designed and constructed by local designers and builders with respect for the indigenous way of life.

Since the 1960s, Mumbai has been growing exorbitantly. The peninsula could not take the pressure and this resulted in the planning of Navi Mumbai (then: New Bombay). There, a smaller, yet striking local housing development is CIDCO Housing (1988-1993) by Raj Rewal. A ‘Slum Redevelopment Scheme’ has been implemented in Mumbai since 1995. In many cases, this has resulted in very small apartments in high-rise flats without much daylight and ventilation  ‘handshake apartments’). With Sangharsh Nagar (1995-2004), PK Das has demonstrated that there are in fact alternatives.

The Mickey Leland condominium site is part of the ‘Grand Housing Programme’ launched in Ethiopia in 2004. Using a standardized block type, the programme provided Addis Ababa with affordable housing on the sites of former slums as well as on the outskirts of the city.

The last project included is the Cidade Horizonte do Uíge in Angola. Using a single floor plan, which is given a different look in different locations, a huge district is springing up adjacent to the existing Uíge as of 2011. In addition to the one at Uíge, 14 similar Cidades Horizontes are currently being realized across Angola. To be able to compare the plans, all projects have been redrawn in a uniform style. The site drawing always shows the original plan as conceived by the designer. Only with regard to the Ekbatan project in Tehran, Iran, and Tema in Ghana have exceptions been made. The relationship between the floor plans of the dwellings and their surroundings is essential for the functioning of a residential environment. In all cases, therefore, we decided to zoom in on part of the plan and show its ground floor, edited into the urban situation. In some cases there was no material available, which made it impossible to manufacture these drawings. For that reason, for Queensbridge Houses and Ekbatan, for instance, drawings of typical floors were made. None of the projects are still in their ‘designed state’ at this time. In each instance, the final drawing represents the essential dwelling type, sometimes complemented by sections.

The drawings are based on historical publications, photographs and archival drawings. With regard to more recent projects, the designers and clients involved made documentation available to us. For many of the projects, brand-new photographic reports were created especially for this issue of DASH; existing photographic material has been used for a number of other projects. Whenever available, we have added  historical photographs to particularly the older projects, to allow comparisons between their original appearance and their current condition.


With contributions by:

Carmen Espegel, Helen Gyger, Annenies Kraaij, Nelson Mota, Michelle Provoost, Kim de Raedt, Seyed Mohamad Ali Sedeghi, Brook Teklehaimanot & Rohan Varma

Manfredi Bozzi, Guido Greijdanus, Cederick Ingen-Housz, Davida Rauch, Carlyn Simoen & Rohan Varma


Herne Hill Peabody Estate

LondonH.A. Darbishire, W.E. Wallis, V. Wilkins

In 1862, American banker and philanthropist George Peabody, who worked in London, established a trust with the aim of improving the living conditions of London’s poor. The trustees decided to focus on the realization of good and affordable housing for the poorest members of the working class. Victorian
England was very aware of the huge shortage of adequate housing for the poor, but the prevailing view was that the market had to resolve the matter. In support of the trustees’ proposal, Peabody eventually donated the – by the standards of the time – huge sum of £ 500.000 . . .


Queensbridge Houses

New YorkW.F.R. Ballard, Henry S. Churchill, Frederick G. Frost & Barnett Turner

Driving east from the southernmost tip of Central Park in New York City, you reach the Queensborough Bridge after about 2.5 km: it connects Manhattan and the borough of Queens. At the foot of the bridge lies New York’s largest social housing project, Queensbridge Houses, built in 1939 and still in use today.

The Y-shaped floor plan of the residential towers and their location in a park-like setting demonstrate how much the accommodation of poor city dwellers improved over the course of one and a half centuries. For a long time New York, like other big cities, was the scene of the most horrendous housing conditions imaginable. Though slum clearance legislation was adopted as early as 1800 – entitling the city to buy and break down buildings that covered an entire plot (and thus had no garden or courtyard) – the hesitant regulations proved no match for the combination of explosive population growth, prohibitive rents and  opportunistic speculative development. Between 1800 and 1850, many parts of the city housed dozens of families crammed into buildings on plots measuring 8 x 32 m, with four housing units per floor, no running water or toilets, and bedrooms without any access to ventilation or light: the so-called ‘railroad tenements’ (because of the similarity to the floorplan of a railway carriage) . . .


New Gourna Village

LuxorHassan Fathy

In the nineteenth century, Gourna was a small farming settlement at the foot of the Theban necropolis, near present-day Luxor. By 1945, it had evolved into a  village of approximately 7,000 inhabitants that subsisted mainly on ransacking the many tombs dating back to the days of the ancient Egyptians. The Egyptian  Department of Antiquities, in an effort to solve this problem, decided to move the village to a location closer to Luxor. Hassan Fathy was commissioned to design  and build a completely new village for the resettlement of the Gournii . . .



Willingboro (NJ)Levitt & Sons

Following the Second World War, the United States faced a huge housing shortage. During the war and the preceding Great Depression of the 1930s, housing  production had been reduced to fewer than 100,000 new dwellings per year. The sudden influx of soldiers returning from the war led to an acute housing shortage at the end of the war. By 1945, 3.6 million American families had no house or apartment. However, in the years after the war, the combination of legislation (the 1949 Housing Act, which stipulated 810,000 new dwellings be built annually for a period of six years), policy (cheap loans for war veterans) and a rapidly growing economy led to a boom in house building that would greatly determine the face of America. On the outskirts of cities, suburbs featuring detached dwellings – many with garages and front and back gardens – on meandering streets emerged one after the other. This urban low-rise model was called ‘suburbia’ and it became the symbol of the American way of life, praised and portrayed in the popular media, diligently studied by social scientists and looked at askance by architects and urban planners. And as suburbia symbolizes the post-war American way of living, so Levittown symbolizes suburbia itself . . .


Poblado Dirigido de Entrevías

MadridFrancisco Javier Sáenz de Oiza, Manuel Sierra Nava & Jaime de Alvear Criado

Towards the end of the 1950s, Spain, which was still recuperating from two wars – the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War – was faced with the reconstruction process as well as the planning and implementation of new urban developments. General Franco’s autocratic regime was forced to combine  emergency measures to eradicate shantytowns born uncontrollably around cities, together with longterm development and extension plans of the urban fabric. The ‘Poblados Dirigidos de Renta Limitada’ (settlements directed to limited incomes) were built as satellite nuclei around Madrid between 1956 and 1966, with  he aim of providing accommodation for the massive flow of immigrants arriving from rural areas. The seven paradigmatic cases built in the Spanish capital were: Entrevías, Canillas, Fuencarral, Orcasitas, Caño Roto, Manoteras and Almendrales. They are a short-lived but stellar set of solutions to the housing problem based on modern principles of budgetary optimization and constructive rationality combined with urban quality . . .


Fria New Town

FriaMichel Écochard; Guy Lagneau, Michel Weill & jean Dimitrijvic; Michel kalt, Daniel Pouradier-Duteil & Piere Vignal

Fria, in Guinea, is a prime example of French late-colonial industrial New Town planning. It was designed and built from scratch between 1956 and 1964 to house both the senior staff and workers of a new bauxite extraction and aluminium production plant owned by the French company Péchiney. The planning and construction of a factory that was projected to produce no less than 15 per cent of the world’s total aluminium stock came, not coincidentally, at the moment when soon-to-be President Ahmed Sékou Touré called upon the Guinean people to vote for total independence, and thus refuse to become part of the Communauté Française. Discursively, Fria was presented as one of the key engines of industrialization and urbanization in Guinea, and as such the locus par excellence of  postcolonial social and economic fulfillment.1 Simultaneously, however, taking responsibility of the planning of Fria and assuming ownership of the aluminium plant allowed France, through Péchiney, to regulate the modernizing process, all the while protecting its economic interests in Africa in view of the imminent secession. This ambiguity, between emancipatory socioeconomic responsibility and control, translates on different levels of Fria’s planning and design . . .


Tema Manhean

TemaMaxwell Fry & Jane Drew

In 1952, a year after Kwame Nkrumah became the first Prime Minister of what was then the British colony of the Gold Coast (now Ghana), the decision was made to build a brandnew harbour as part of the ambitious Volta River Project.1 For the relocation of Tema, a small fishing village that stood in the way of the new development, the English office of Maxwell Fry, Jane Drew and Denys Lasdun was engaged. Although there was a plan for a whole new city to be built on the site of the demolished village, it was decided not to incorporate the villagers in this new city. Instead, a separate settlement was designed (Tema Manhean) so that the villagers could keep their own identity while still improving their living environment. This decision caused a serious dilemma: because of its authenticity the tribe was condemned to remain an enclave of traditional living, while next door in the new Tema modern progress unfolded in all its attractiveness . . .


  • The Volta River Project included the building of an aluminium smelter in
    Tema, a huge dam in the Volta River (now: Akosombodam) and a network of
    power lines installed throughout southern Ghana.


TemaConstantinos Doxiadis

In 1957, Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah declared Ghana independent. While Ghana was still a British colony, the decision was made to build Tema Harbour, as part of the Volta River Project.1 Along the way, it was decided that an entire new city in this area was needed. An English planning team began this process in the 1950s, but their carefully designed, winding road patterns didn’t provide the fast paced and rational image that Nkrumah was after. In 1960 he hired Greek  planner Constantinos Doxiadis to speed and scale things up as well as rationalize the urban plan . . .


  • The Volta River Project included the building of an aluminum smelter in Tema, the building of a huge dam in the Volta River(now: Akosombodam) and a network of power lines installed through southern Ghana.


LondonRobert Rig / Greater London Council

In the mid-1960s, the Greater London Council (GLC) initiated the setup of a programme and design of a New Town for no less than 60,000 people in East London: Thamesmead. After the First World War, the GLC had begun the large-scale demolition of inner-city slums consisting of Victorian back-to-back dwellings built for the working classes. This slum clearance process continued through the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Thamesmead was intended, among other things, for the resettlement of families from the cleared neighbourhoods. The location of the new residential area was to be the site of the Woolwich Royal Arsenal, which had fallen into
disuse. This originally low-lying wetland area between the River Thames and the Abbey Wood hills had been deemed unfit for large-scale development for years due to poor soil conditions and the danger of flooding. However, lack of space and a high-pressured housing market changed all that and the location was developed despite the risks . . .


Urbanización Caja de Agua

LimaJunto Nacional de la Vivienda

The Caja de Agua development was initially proposed by the Peruvian state housing agency in 1961, as part of its programme to create a new kind of housing  project: the Urbanización Popular de Interés Social (UPIS, or Low-Income Social Housing Subdivision). The UPIS offered organized urban development to a  minimum standard, substantially below previous government-sponsored housing projects, in an effort to accommodate low-income residents. The urban layouts were to be prepared by the state housing agency, with a range of basic services, and the residents committed to purchasing a core house that they were expected to complete over time using self-help labour. The design of the dwellings followed the concept of the casa que crece (growing house), first proposed in Peru by  architect Santiago Agurto in his entry to a 1954 housing competition, and subsequently implemented on a trial basis in a state-sponsored project at Ciudad de  Dios, Lima, in 1957. Such projects borrowed and systematized the techniques of barriada (squatter settlement) housing – progressive development, resident  participation in construction – but aimed to circumvent ad hoc building through technical assistance and carefully conceived expansion plans . . .



TehranGruzen & Partners

During the 1960s and 1970s, the close economic ties between the USA and Iran encouraged many American firms to develop various mega-projects in Iran. In  1966, the Iranian Ministry of Housing asked Victor Gruen to prepare a comprehensive master plan for Tehran in collaboration with his Iranian partner Abdolaziz Farmanfarmaian. Gruen’s urban theory, entitled The Heart of our Cities, is based on a hierarchy of urban structures in which the commercial centres have priority. He envisaged the metropolis of tomorrow as a central city surrounded by ten additional cities, each with its own centre. This resembled Ebenezer  Howard’s Social Cities, in which a central city was surrounded by a cluster of garden cities. These ideas inspired Gruen to expand the border of Tehran and plan many new suburban residential districts. As a result of his planning, in 1968 a pilot project known as Ekbatan was commissioned by the Tehran Redevelopment
Corporative Company on the west side of Tehran. Rahman Golzar and Jordan Gruzen of the American office Gruzen & Partners were asked to collaborate with Victor Gruen to design the biggest residential complex in the Middle East at the time: 15,500 housing units for about 70,000 inhabitants in an area of 221 ha . . .