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Affordable Dwellings for Growing Cities

Plan Documentation overview

The plan documentation of the latest issue of DASH 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.


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DASH #12-13 – Global Housing

Affordable Dwellings for Growing Cities

In emerging economies all over the world, massive urbanization leads to an acute need of affordable housing. DASH Global Housing is a special double issue focused on architectural and urban planning models implemented to face this challenge worldwide.

DASH explores the tension between the required mass production and solutions tailored to local circumstances. The emphasis is both on the design of the individual dwelling and the city as a whole. What makes a good, compact dwelling? How can new megacities do justice to the existing social and economic structures, to local production methods and the individual wishes of residents?

Experts from the Netherlands and abroad shed light on this global phenomenon. This issue includes articles by Dick van Gameren, Tom Avermaete and Helen Gyger and interviews with Charles Correa and Go West. The plan documentation includes projects by Jaime Lerner in Angola, PK Das in India and Kamran Diba in Iran as well as historical examples from Great Britain and North America, countries that faced similar problems more than a century ago.


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Editorial Dash #12-13

Last year, during a DASH seminar held in Delft in the summer of 2014, Charles Correa held an ardent plea for an architecture of affordable housing that starts  from space and openness, rather than bulk and density.

In his mind, models for large-scale and affordable housing were all too often based on the maximization of numbers, while the need to make space for an everyday life in which living and working can be combined, and growth and development remains possible, was  forgotten. The opposites he articulated highlight the dilemma of affordable housing: despite the often massive economic and spatial pressure in the cities, how can city dwellers that have no or a limited income be protected from having to live in a minimal provision in which there is no room for the creation of businesses and social networks?

Cities in the Global South are expanding fast due to rapid population growth and unprecedented immigration from rural areas. At the same time, the demand for affordable housing is also increasingly difficult to meet in the developed West. The major cities in this part of the world are so successful and attractive that housing is likely to become unaffordable. The current influx of immigrants and refugees make the shortage of affordable housing even more pressing.

This edition of DASH focuses on the issue of affordable housing design as an architectural challenge. DASH traces the global search for models for large-scale and affordable housing. Articles and plan documentations give an apparently kaleidoscopic and fragmented picture of this development, but on closer inspection there
are a number of continuous lines to be discerned in the ways the issue is dealt with. The essays and projects span 150 years and five continents and show the  trong international dimension that the issue, characterized by confrontations between concepts developed elsewhere and specific local conditions, has had for  decades.

The results of these exchanges have been highly diverse, ranging from minimal sites-and-services approaches to grand and detailed megastructures. The success of projects has also varied widely. The Victorian Peabody Estates built to replace the London slums remain virtually unchanged 100 years later; other  projects disintegrated mere years after their completion, some stand vacant and some are to be demolished. The results of models based on growth and
change over time are also as diverse as they are unpredictable.

This issue, a concise DASH world atlas of affordable housing, is the beginning of a large, long-term research and educational project at the department of  Architecture of the Faculty of Architecture and The Built Environment at Delft University of Technology in which analyses of models and realized projects from the past and the present are connected to an exploration of the possibilities of the future. While working on this publication, we received the sad news that Charles Correa died on 16 June 2015. His manifesto for the city and a conversation with him held shortly before his death form the heart of this DASH. We dedicate this edition to Correa and to his enduring significance as a source of inspiration and advocate for what is still the world’s biggest spatial design challenge: the creation of cities that are accessible to everybody and in which there is place for everyone to live and work.


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Shifting Scales

Affordable Housing in India

The search for new models for affordable housing in the world’s growing cities has never been more urgent. Good, inexpensive housing is needed to confront the challenges of urban segregation, and to make it possible for those with little or no means to access and inhabit the cities that have the promise of providing a better future. India has been addressing these issues since its independence in 1947, resulting in a series of housing design experiments that can still inspire, but also clearly demonstrate the near impossibility of finding successful and lasting solutions.

Despite India’s recent economic success, the state’s inability to actively and effectively deal with the country’s rapid urbanization have led to megacities such as Mumbai and New Delhi that threaten to succumb to the unrelenting pressures of distress migration. At the same time, there has been an exponential rise in the number of smaller cities growing at an even faster rate than the large metropolises. Still a predominantly rural society with only about 30 per cent of its entire population living in urban areas (about 410 million people),1 India is expected to add an additional 500 million people to its cities by the year 2050.2 As urban India surges forward, construction and planning have been unable to keep up with demand, leading to a situation where large informal settlements or slums have become an inevitable consequence of this rapid growth. Today, in India, the enormous task of providing housing for new migrants as well as improving the conditions of those living in the already existing self-built informal settlements has never been more acute.

Designing affordable housing in large numbers is a constant process of balancing opposites. The way people can live in the city is a key factor in the transformation of traditional rural society into a modern urbanized economy. Should affordable dwellings be designed to accommodate a traditional rural way of life, or should they immediately aim for a future urban lifestyle?

The opposites of rural versus urban, of tradition versus modern, and local versus global played a key role in the formation of a new and independent India. Mahatma Gandhi, for example, always stressed the origins of Indian society. ‘India is to be found not in its few cities, but in the 700,000 villages’3 is a famous quote of his from 1936. On the other hand, India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, was a firm advocate of the modernization and urbanization of the country, and initiated the construction of a new state capital, Chandigarh, as a symbol of the new, free and modern India . . .


  • Accessed 16 August 2015.
  • A. Dhar (2012), India Will See Highest Urban Population Rise in Next 40 Years, available online at:
    urban-population-rise-in-next-40-years/article3286896.ece. Accessed 16 August 2015.
  • Speech by Mahatma Gandhi at the 50th session of the Indian National Congress, Faizpur, Bangalore, in: A.K. Thakur, Economics of Mahatma Gandhi: Challenges and Development (Delhi: Deep and Deep Publications, 2009).
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Affordable Housing as Development Aid

Michel Écochard: New Roles, Methods and Tools of the Transnational Architect

It was not by coincidence that the UN Economical and Social Council decided in 1948, only a few years after the actual foundation of the United Nations as an organization, to start a division on Housing and Town and Country Planning.1 This division was a central component in the larger so-called technical assistance programme that the United Nations developed to help countries that were in need – ranging from war-affected countries in Europe to newly independent nation-states in African and Asia. Among the members of the council, there was a clear understanding that affordable housing was a universal human right, as well as a main matter of concern and a prime field of intervention for the new international organization.2 . . .


  • This research on the United Nations and the HTCP was undertaken together with Maristella Casciato. An introduction to the various activities of the Housing and Town and Country Planning can be found in the various issues of the periodical Housing and Town and Country Planning (New York: United Nations. Dept. of Social Affairs, 1948).
  • Adequate housing was recognized as part of the right to an adequate standard of living in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was approved by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 and of which article 25 states: ‘Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing . . .’ It was confirmed in the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.


The articles by Luce Beeckmans, “The adventures of the French architect Michel Ecochard in post-independence Dakar: a transnational development expert drifting between commitment and expediency”, The Journal of Architecture, 19:6, 2004, 849-871 and Kim De Raedt, “Shifting conditions, frameworks and approaches: the work of KPDV in postcolonial Africa.”, ABE Journal: (4/2013) 1-28 have, for respectively the texts parts on Dakar and Fria, functioned as important sources for this essay. Passages from these articles have been strongly paraphrased (in first, second and last paragraph on Dakar, and in third paragraph on Fria) but erroneously not referenced (Beeckmans) or only partially (De Raedt). The authors wish to apologize for this omission, explicitly recognize the role of the articles as sources and underline their scientific importance.



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Mediating Informality

The Urban Visions of Peru's Law 13517

In 1949, Lima’s modernist apotheosis appeared imminent: the Plan Piloto, the city’s first master plan, had applied the techniques of scientific planning to analyse the city at its various scales – from the historical core to the agricultural areas supplying it with food – and to establish a logical course for ‘channeling its urban development’.1 But by 1954, a follow-up study warned that ‘the overflowing vitality of the metropolis in its blind force of expansion’ was setting in train problems which would only intensify over time: ‘the traffic congestion endlessly increases . . . delinquency grows; the city is choking itself in a dreadful ring of clandestine dwellings . . . a drop in the standard of living threatens.’ All this was the result of an unprecedented rate of population growth, largely due to rural-urban migration: established planning processes were being overtaken by the rapid emergence of barriadas (squatter settlements), as authorized housing could not be built quickly and cheaply enough to meet the demand. Reluctantly, the study confessed: ‘An economical system of urbanization and construction that would allow us to avoid the overcrowded and unsanitary conditions that appear in the “clandestine neighbourhoods” has not yet been devised.’2

The establishment of the improvised ‘Ciudad de Dios’ (City of God) on Lima’s southern periphery, achieved through a large-scale land invasion on Christmas Eve 1954, dramatized the desperate nature of the capital’s housing crisis. Although this method of forming barriadas had proliferated over the previous half decade, the Ciudad de Dios invasion, involving 8,000 people, was by far the largest to date, testing the limits of the state’s tolerance for extrajudicial development and provoking it into a more assertive response. After initially insisting that Ciudad de Dios would be forcibly closed down, in 1955 the government turned to planning law to broker a solution, devising new guidelines that could better accommodate – but also more effectively regulate – these emerging patterns of urban development. This tactic culminated in 1961 with the comprehensive set of reforms advanced in Law 13517, which outlined a new approach to understanding and shaping the selfbuilt city. While prevailing urban planning techniques had failed, confidence remained that once its techniques were recalibrated in line with a revised regulatory framework, planning professionals would again be able to deliver rational and effective solutions to ‘channel’
urban growth. This article assesses how efforts to apply the new regulations unfolded and how they fared in practice . . .


  • Oficina Nacional de Planeamiento y Urbanismo, Lima: Plan Piloto (Lima: ONPU, April 1949). The plan was produced under the direction of Luis Dorich, the first Peruvian architect to formally study urban planning, completing his studies at MIT in 1944. Josep Lluís Sert and Paul Lester Wiener’s unrealized project for a new civic centre for Lima was one component of the Plan Piloto.
  • ONPU, Lima Metropolitana: Algunos aspectos de su expediente urbano y
    soluciones parciales y varias (Lima: ONPU, December 1954), 5, 8.
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To be Continued . . .

Housing, Design and Self-Determination

Self-help housing is a timeless social practice to satisfy people’s need for shelter. In broad terms, it can be defined as an activity where citizens, individually or collectively, develop a great deal of self-determination in housing production. It does not mean, however, that it implies complete autonomy or autarky. In effect, self-help housing is far from a monolithic category. In pre-capitalist societies it was pervasive and arguably the most common form of housing provision.1 With the emergence and rise of the capitalist mode of production in Western societies, providing proper living conditions became a key element to secure the reproduction of the labour force necessary to support industrial development and capital accumulation. This was then the heyday of philanthropic ventures promoted by bourgeois reformers to provide decent housing for the working class. Ever since, in periods of capitalist expansion, self-help housing in the urbanized world has been swiftly replaced by marketbased housing production. In periods of crisis of capitalism, however, self-help housing returned recurrently. This time, however, it was the bureaucratic apparatus of the state and its extensions that exploited it, thus creating the so-called aided self-help, or in more actual terms, assisted self-help housing. In central Europe, for example, this was the case after the Franco-German war of 1870-1871, in the aftermath of the First World War, the Great Depression in the 1930s, in the aftermath of the Second World War, the first oil shock of 1973, and more recently the financial crisis that started in 2008.2

Many authors, especially those examining assisted self-help housing from a Marxist point of view, see it as a politically charged concept, usually associated with a withdrawal of the state from its role as provider of affordable housing. There is a great deal of mystification in this understanding, though. In fact, self-help has been historically part and parcel of housing policies championed by a wide political spectrum, a phenomenon that was particularly evident in Europe throughout the twentieth century. Indeed, governments controlled by communists, fascists, socialists and liberal democrats have all employed housing policies based on assisted self-help. Despite this versatility, or perhaps because of it, self-help housing policies have seldom been credited intellectually and politically as a key housing policy.3

This does not mean, however, that its influence in shelter delivery processes around the world can be neglected. For example, between 1972 and 1982 the World Bank alone promoted a particular instance of assisted self-help, the sites and services approach, lending money to finance shelter projects or components in 35 countries, that yielded accommodation to some 3 million people over that period.4 Indeed, in the 1970s, the sites and services approach was championed as a pervasive housing policy for the developing world, and an influential contribution to the re-emergence of human settlements based on the
concept of incremental housing and participatory design as tokens of democratic architecture. This approach became ‘a sort of new orthodoxy in the housing policies advocated for developing countries’, as Lisa Peattie put it.5 The ‘Habitat: United Nations Conference on Human Settlements’, held in Vancouver in 1976, was arguably the touchstone event that established the sites and services approach as the major figure in the housing policies used in developing aid. It contributed a great deal to what another important figure of the Habitat conference, Barbara Ward, called ‘planetary housekeeping’.6 . . .


  • Hans Harms, ‘Historical Perspective on the Practice and Purpose of Self-Help Housing’, in: Peter Ward (ed.), Self-Help Housing: A Critique (London: Mansell, 1982), 45.
  • An insightful account on the emergence of self-help housing can be seen in Harms, ‘Historical Perspective’, op. cit. (note 1). Recent appraisal on assisted self-help has surfaced from different disciplinary fi elds. See, for example, the April 2015 issue of the magazine Volume, dedicated to the theme ‘Self-Building City’, and the prominence of assisted self-help initiatives in Jan Bredenoord, Paul Van Lindert and Peer Smets (eds.), Affordable Housing in the Urban Global South: Seeking Sustainable Solutions (Abingdon: Routledge, 2014).
  • For a discussion on the diverse political nature of the endorsement to assisted self-help, see Richard Harris, ‘Slipping through the Cracks: The Origins of Aided Self-Help Housing, 1918-53,’ Housing Studies, vol 14 (1999) no. 3, 281-309.
  • Jan Van der Linden, The Sites and Services Approach Renewed. Solution or Stopgap to the Third World Housing Shortage? (Aldershot: Gower, 1986),
  • Lisa R. Peattie, ‘Some Second Thoughts on Sites-and-Services’, Habitat International, vol. 6 (1982) no. 1-2, 131.
  • Barbara Ward, ‘The Home of Man: What Nations and the International Must Do’, Habitat International, vol. 1 (1976) no. 2, 125. This text reproduces Barbara Ward’s talk at the Habitat Conference, delivered on Tuesday 1 June 1976 at the Conference Plenary Hall, Queen Elizabeth Centre.
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Cross Pollination in the Doshi-Habitat

A Report from Ahmedabad

Students of Delft University of Technology have been taking part in the Habitat Design Studio in Ahmedabad since 2010. The design studio is organized annually by Balkrishna Doshi and his firm Vastu Shilpa.1 For two months, the students work on a task related to the explosive growth of the city together with other European students and students from India. This may involve slum improvement, urban densification challenges or design research with regard to self-build practices. For the 2015 edition, the construction of a new subway line was reason to investigate its possible effects on the existing urban tissue. All studio editions centred on local neighbourhood communities and how these can be best enabled to reshape their own living environment. The students live in Ahmedabad for two months and their work at Doshi’s firm immerses them in the culture of India, the context of rapid urbanization and the conflicts arising between twenty-first-century modernity, growing new middle classes that embrace a materialistic lifestyle, and the influx of migrants who try their luck in the city while still holding on to a much more traditional lifestyle . . .


  • For a brief overview, see The studio dates back to 2003. Architecture Schools in Australia, Denmark, France and Switzerland have taken part in the Habitat Design Studio. The students are supervised by a multidisciplinary team of teachers. Especially the contribution of prof. em. Neelkanth Chhaya should not go unrecognized.
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An Urban Manifesto

I believe in the cities of India:
Like the wheat fields of Punjab, and the coalfields of Bihar, they are a crucial part of our national wealth.

They generate the skills we need for development:
Doctors, nurses, lawyers, administrators, engineers – not just from the great metropolises, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai, but from a hundred
smaller urban centres across the country.

Cities are engines of economic growth:
There is no way, either politically or morally, that we can divert rural funds to develop towns and cities. On the contrary, cities, properly managed, can generate surplus funds not only for their own development, but to help subsidize the surrounding rural areas as well.

Cities are centres of hope:
Too often we look at our cities from our own self-centred point of view. So we see only the shortages, the failures. But for millions and millions of migrants, landless labourers and wretched have-nots of our society, cities are perhaps their only hope, their only gateway to a better future.


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Affordable Cities

Interview with Charles Correa

As a pioneer of low-cost housing and a former chairman of the National Commission on Urbanisation, Charles Correa has throughout his long career stressed the crucial relationship between affordable housing, public transport and job location. In the early 1960s, Correa, along with two other colleagues, actively championed this idea and proposed a radical restructuring of Mumbai (then known as Bombay) to deal with the city’s growing informal settlements. Their vision, now known as Navi Mumbai (New Bombay), was designed to accommodate 2 million people by developing land across the harbour that would change the pattern of growth in the city from a monocentric north-south one to a polycentric urban system around the bay. While Navi Mumbai remains one of the key large-scale urban planning projects of the last century, it is also the location for another important experiment of a smaller scale: Correa’s famous Belapur incremental housing project of 1983 . . .


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“That money doesn’t even leave China”

Interview with Daan Roggeveen & Michiel Hulshof (Go West)

In Africa, rapid urbanization and explosive economic growth have led to major building activity in almost all areas: infrastructure, government buildings, housing and so on. Arrestingly, the contribution of Chinese companies is very large. It isn’t uncommon for entire cities to be thrown up by Chinese construction companies and a largely Chinese workforce. How is China changing the face of Africa? DASH discussed this with Daan Roggeveen and Michiel Hulshof, who jointly form research collective Go West. In 2011, they published a book about the explosive growth of Chinese megacities, punctuated by photographs and anecdotes and called How the City Moved to Mr Sun. Their current journalistic research is about the impact of China on African urbanization . . .


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The Grand Housing Programme

Interview with Tsedale Mamo

In 2004, the Integrated Housing Development Programme (IHDP) was introduced in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to reduce the overwhelming housing backlog estimated at about 300,000 housing units and to replace 50 per cent of the dilapidated housing stock. The programme, also known as the ‘Grand Housing Programme’ (GHP), was initiated by the then mayor Arkebe Oqubay and had the ambitious goal of building 50,000 housing units per year. DASH interviewed Tsedale Mamo, the most important figure during the execution of the project in the early days. Mrs Tsedale1 is an Ethiopian Architect educated at Addis Ababa University and the University of Technology in Helsinki, Finland, who was the manager of the GHP from 2005 until 2010. She was responsible for overseeing both the design work in the IHDP offices and the implementations on site . . .