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MASS HOUSING 2009 Volume 21

Welcome to a world of

Sample Copy. Available Spring 2010. Order now and get a 10% discount.


Contents ......................................................................... This tourist guide is presented as an excerpt of a forthcoming publication.


Intro ...................................................................... 4 Yunusabad · Tashkent · Uzbekistan ...................... 6 Marzahn · Berlin · Germany .................................. 8 Le Mirail · Toulouse · France................................. 10 Special Focus: Colonial mass architecture – The North African Experience ............................. 12 Kim Liên · Hanoi · Vietnam .................................... 14 The Bijlmer · Amsterdam · The Netherlands ....... 16 Special Focus: The Grand Tour of Ruined Mass Housing ........... 18 Fuerte Apache · Buenos · Aires Argentina ........... 20 Lavatrice · Genoa · Italy ....................................... 22 Ekbatan · Tehran · Iran .......................................... 24 Hikarigaoka Park Town · Tokyo · Japan .............. 26 Glossary ............................................................... 28


FACTS for the Traveller ARCHIS teams up with MEDIAMATIC! Mediamatic Travel is a growing network where cultural professionals can meet and adventurous travellers can plan their trips. New local city experts join the website everyday making more interesting places within reach. Mediamatic invites local cultural experts from all over the world to join Mediamatic Travel.

Volume 21



Volume 21

Introduction There is something uncanny about traveling to places that continuously evoke a common, everyday landscape. Art historian Mark Crimson describes traveling between two cities in the world as ‘a means to return home as you inevitably pass through airport, ring roads, and similar buildings’. The experience of travel today increasingly feels this way. Modern architecture is everywhere and mass housing, epitomizing the principles of modern architecture and urbanism, has truly become a global phenomenon. From the Russian microrayon and the Argentinean FONAVI to the French grand ensemble our constructed environment has been shaped by the ambition to house the masses. The prevailing sense of uniformity among global metropolises nowadays is due in part to continuously encountering these large machines for living.

Yet this apparent uniformity is shattered by a thorough investigation of the realities of each place. Rather than focusing solely on slabs and concrete, this travel guide takes a site-specific approach to mass housing by exploring individual places and their social, political and cultural contexts. In doing so it aims to deliver a more thorough portrayal of collective living. In everything from their shapes to their stories these sites offer a diversity that contradicts their uniformity of purpose. And the sources of this architecture vary widely, often being incongruous from country to country: socialist sentiments, market ambitions, political strategies and utopian ideals. Mass housing gained a poor reputation in the latter half of the last century especially in the West. A form of collective anxiety regarding the standardized, excessive character of such large-scale structures stigmatized many of these projects. The demolition of an existing complex is met with cheers and

proposals for new ones incite outrage: ‘Not in my backyard!’ Yet the majority of our cities continue to struggle with housing shortages and the proliferation of substandard living conditions. This guide tests the validity and depth of the common story of mass housing. In some cases the reputation was deserved, but the many exceptions are surprising. This guide defines a new cultural attitude and proposes a tourism of the edges, margins and borders. No longer can cities be identified solely by their historic centers. Mass architecture today is part of an international historical heritage and an inevitable fact. We hope our readers will take the opportunity to travel to the sites described here themselves to see what is truly unique about each one. Mass Housing in the Future Mass produced buildings already account for a vast proportion of the world’s housing stock. Over

a billion people live in pre-fabricated housing today, yet we’re not producing it fast enough. By 2040 64% of the world, or almost 6 billion people, will live in cities. 4,000 houses need to be constructed every hour to meet the housing needs of this mass urban migration. Even by 2012 cities will need to build 27 million housing units. Slums, which house onethird of the global population today, are absorbing the majority of this need. And the population of slum dwellers will continue to grow at an alarming rate unless an alternative is found. Mass housing is an inevitable solution to achieve a livable standard for growing urban populations. There are already a great many efficient examples of mass housing each of which continually influences the future shape of the city. Cities must learn how to build faster, cheaper and higher.

In England see the very first example of IKEA’s house: the BoKlok.

China has the

35% of Dutch live

biggest market for

in social housing,

mass housing

the highest rate in the

in 2009. See what

EU. See some crazy,

the craze is about.

Dutch-designed housing blocks.

See Co-op City

Look for the historic

in the Bronx, the

village of Alt-Marzahn

largest cooperative

in the Plattenbau

housing develop-

district in Berlin

ment in the world.

See some of the most elegant and expensive 90% of all housing

mass housing in

in Russia is prefabri-

the world in Tokyo.

Visit a unique

cated. Explore all

Grand Ensemble

the available types

in Toulouse

in Moscow. See an Iranian tribute to Brutalism

See a mass See some of

housing complex

the 700,000 housing

inspired by

units being built by the Brazilian

washing machines

Discover one of

in Genoa

the hundreds of

government with

thousands of

the My House,

identical domiciles

My Life program.

in Tashkent


Visit a Soviet-

Explore the

style mass

ruins of the

housing district

demolished site

in Hanoi

of Kowloon


Engineers and architects cannot change any construction details, such as joints or connections, in


the initial design. Only the government designated agency is allowed to make modifications. 1

Plan a trip: a Pre-Fabulous Adventure Major companies outside the building industry are making their first foray in the mass housing market with pre-fabricated homes. See if you

Yunusabad · Tashkent · Uzbekistan The northern district of Tashkent, the largest city in Central Asia, is home to a rich and abundant stock of mass housing due to the city’s history as a capital in the former Soviet Union. You can see a variety of types in many different scales nestled into large green pockets scattered around the district. As with most Soviet cities, the majority of Tashkent’s housing stock is pre-fabricated and standardized, and the inhabitants are not restricted to any social demographic, wealthy or poor. Also while in Tashkent you can see other relics of the Soviet era, like one of the 2,000 sports complexes that were built during those years. Mass Housing Tashkent A massive earthquake (7.5 on the Richter scale) leveled much of Tashkent in 1966 and ‘battalions of fraternal people’ from Soviet states rushed in with aid to rebuild it into a model, modern Soviet city. The efficiency of Soviet mass housing allowed for whole cities to be constructed with incredible speed. Such planning allowed for 95% of all housing stock in Russia to become standardized in a matter of decades by the 1970s. The sudden destruction of the entire city thus became an ideal opportunity for the Soviet microrayon in Uzbekistan’s formerly historic, capital city Tashkent. Over 100,000 homes were built in four years. In contrast to mass housing sites in non-Soviet nations, the boundaries between neighborhoods and complexes are more difficult to discern as continuous bands of mass housing exist throughout the city. So start in Yunusabad and simply wander. Inevitably you will stumble through complex after complex in this paradise of mass housing. 66

Volume 21

Uzbekistan’s National Block Because so many buildings all over Uzbekistan are produced by the state, the government established a centralized mass production construction process. This uniform manufacturing process means that certain types of buildings are identical everywhere in the country. As the most common standard type, making up over 18% of housing and over 25% of public buildings in Tashkent, the following is the national standard block: The building is a pre-cast, reinforced concrete structure in a rectangular plan with nine to twelve storeys for residential blocks or one to four for public buildings. The plan uses dimensions of 18x18m, 12x36m or 15x24m (59x59 ft., 39x118 ft. or 49x79 ft.). Windows and doors range in size from 2.25 to 4.5 meters (7.4 to 14.8 ft.) and there are about 30 meters (100 ft.) between buildings. In a 12-story building there are 60 families living in 60 units, with one bathroom each. Residents are poor or middle class. Today about 90% of these buildings are privately owned and 10% are rented from the government. A typical 12-story block with dimensions of 18x18m can be erected by 10 workers in 10 months. This construction method has been the national process for over 35 years, since 1973 when the frame panel Seria IIS-04 was first used. The cost for this building method is about 33,000 sum/m2 or about €80/m2 ($10.50/sq.ft.). The government commissions a design firm to develop a series of industrialized construction elements. The agency produces specifications for columns, girders, diaphragms, slabs, wall panels, staircases, etc. which are then mass produced by concrete plants. Other design firms then design standard building blocks from these parts as ordered by the municipality or private client. The concrete plants deliver all the required building materials to the construction site and these are then assembled. 6|7

can spot one during your adventures: 7 These clean, bright, Nordic homes have been constructed in Sweden since 1996 by SKANSKA and are now being exported by IKEA. The apartments come in one and two bedroom versions and every apartment includes a lawn, a patio/deck and even an IKEA apple tree.


1 Yunusabad neighborhood in Tashkent 2 Key load-bearing elements in the standard Uzbek block 3 Typical building plan in Tashkent 4 National housing block type in Tashkent 5 Cattle grazing in a Yunusabad park 6 View inside Yunusabad Sports Complex

See them in Sweden, the UK, Finland, Denmark or Norway. A marvel of pre-fabrication, an apartment building can be completed in one day with everything including electrical wiring completed. In the UK one bedroom apartments can cost as low as £99,500 ($162,000) and two bedroom houses as low as £132,500 ($216,000). In Sweden demand is so high that a lottery is held to distribute ownership of these homes.



8 The car manufacturer Toyota recently entered the housing market offering these fire- and earthquake-proof, car-friendly homes in Japan. There are currently more than a dozen designs, ranging from $200,000 to $800,000 or more. Targeting mostly single moms, these homes can be completed in as little as six hours on site. They also come with electrical systems to charge your car and a 60-year warranty.

Did you know? All over Tashkent you can watch farm animals grazing in city parks.



People have begun raising sheep and cattle in the city and parts of Tashkent have become urban pastures. Don’t miss the local fauna when checking out Yunusabad’s beautiful blocks! 5 Focus on: Post-Soviet Mass Housing in Central Asia Most of the countries that were once part of the USSR gained independence in 1991 after its collapse. Many of these made big strides toward the privatization of state-owned housing as early as 1993; Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan led the way with 35% of housing privatized. In some post-Soviet states there were initially give-away programs by which public housing tenants were given ownership. Most Central Asian states do not have strong records of privatization compared to Eastern European nations, but Kazakhstan is an exception. Governments continue to control a large portion of the production and home ownership throughout the country. Central Asians continue to have a strong Soviet ethic left over from the many years spent as a part of the USSR. Luckily this means that mass production and prefabrication are often still dynamic and prolific in these nations, even in projects developed privately.



Volume 21

Marzahn · Berlin · Germany

Few locations bespeak what life was in the former DDR like Marzahn. This giant settlement located northeast of Berlin is the largest housing estate in Germany with 58,200 dwellings. It dates from the 1970s and comes close to being a perfect example of the standard building practice at the time. Plattenbau (prefabricated, large concrete panel construction) emerged from the dominant belief that it would provide solutions to every urban ill and satisfy demand for higher quality for the masses. Large housing estates were erected in both West and East Germany according to specific standards of construction, but it was not until the beginning of the 1970s that construction really took off. Today there are nearly two million Plattenbau units in the former DDR and almost 900,000 in former West Germany. Mass housing in Germany is not a recent urban phenomenon and is mostly connected with the many attempts to tackle housing shortages. The roots of the housing crisis in Germany lie with the poor quality of 19th-century working class housing. Attempts to resolve the housing shortage included the gardencity movement and provided an anti-urban model to accommodate the middle and upper-classes. After the First World War the Weimar Republic undertook mass-housing programs with low-rise estates such as Großsiedlung Siemensstadt. Although the method of construction and building technologies remained traditional, the result was defined by a minimal aesthetic and standardization, ideas proclaimed by the Bauhaus school. Following the Second World War Germany faced a major housing crisis. Not only did the war destroy much of the housing stock in every major city, but millions of refugees from the east had to find new homes. According to one estimate, there were 10 million housing units for 17 million households. In the early 1960s the German

after work. It quickly became a mono-functional area used only as a dormitory, separated from the rest of the city and largely serving the local inhabitants. Marzahn now forms part of a much wider area built at the same time. All the estates sit on the edge of the city and the contrast between the high densities and the adjoining landscapes, sometimes undefined or left as grassland might suggest that the city has yet to be extended further east. Democratic Republic, like many of its socialist counterparts, began a large-scale housing program calling for significant urban extensions on agricultural land in satellite towns. The Marzahn Grosswohnsiedlung The historic village of Alt-Marzahn finds its past surrounded by slabs and concrete panel buildings. This once rural village still had a traditional town center with a brick church built in 1871 and a lovely village inn. Another landmark is the windmill, rebuilt in 1994, that can mill up to a ton of rye or wheat a day. Marzahn remained a rural area until the late 1970s when local authorities planned a rapid urban extension and a vast housing estate program. This consisted of large housing blocks and high rises (‘Wohnhochhaus’) characterized by a monolithic monotony. Marzahn was built by engineers in a centrally planned state and came close to a computer model city. The buildings ranged from five to eighteen floors, in color schemes varying from drab grey through drab brown to drab red, and all assembled from prefabricated slabs. It included a day care center, a primary school and an ‘amenities cube’ containing a ‘Grossraumgaststätte’ for relaxing


The Plattenbau Style The word is a compound of Platte (panel) and Bau (building). Although Plattenbauen are often considered to be typically East German, the prefabricated construction method was used extensively in West Germany and elsewhere, particularly in public housing projects. 1949: 1950:


Walking tour The S-Bahn lines S7/S75 from Berlin travel through the 15km-long trail of functional blocks and high-rises that are Marzahn, Ahrensfelde,

1957: 1959:

Hellersdorf, Kaulsdorf, Mahlsdorf and Hohenschönhausen. From there a multitude of walking paths though the estates offer a good start to


explore this functional city. The sheer scale of the developments, the repetition of the same urban typology and monotony of the landscape create a disorienting labyrinth.


If the intention is to lose oneself in the city, Marzahn can provide the impulse for the unknown, the unfamiliar and uncanniness. The pedestrian experience of this city will then certainly echo the acts of wandering reflected in the writings of Baudelaire and Benjamin’s ‘flâneurs’. Probably best then to leave the maps at home and navigate through this block city according to a single itinerary – your own. If these aimless wanderings don’t trigger the expected surrealist



experience, you can find the ‘Marzahn Recreational Park’ whose labyrinths are modeled on Hampton Court Palace and gardens of the Italian Renaissance.

1972: 1990: 2001:

The German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and the Ministry of Reconstruction are founded. The Minister of Reconstruction travels to the Soviet Union. The ‘Sixteen Fundamentals of Urban Development’ are published, introducing the neo-classical, Stalinist period in building. The de-Stalinization period heralds the industrialization of construction. It is decided that the chronic housing shortage can be solved by abandoning traditional building methods. (Moscow All-Union Conference 1954, Construction Conference of the GDR, 1955.) The GDR builds its first fully automated factory for the manufacture of concrete slabs used in building construction. The SED (Communist Party) Central Committee orders the mass production of construction elements; Establishment of building types (QP, P2, WHH, etc.): 315,000 new residential units are completed. The IV. Communist Party Conference creates fundamental structures for industrialized construction. ‘Wohnungsbaukombinate’ (Public Building Trusts) or WBK are declared the sole builders of residential housing and are placed under the jurisdiction of the Bezirke (districts) of the GDR. The SED Central Committee’s Fifth Conference on Building. The GDR Council of Ministers decides to develop a unified system for the construction industry. The state-owned construction companies harmonize the dimensions of their products (standard measurement 6000mm) and develop ‘Wohnungsbausystems 70’ (residential construction system 70); existing products are given type names. Completion of the first WBS 70-type residential unit in Neubrandeburg. Completion of the 644,900th residential unit of the same type, the 1,205,400th residential unit in all. There are over 270,400 industrially-produced residential units in East Berlin, including the Berlin-Mitte (central) section of the city. Of these, 232,000 residential units have been modernized. The added comfort in the interior of the buildings provided by the modernization efforts is accompanied by a loss of the unique features characteristic of this architecture. Source:

1 The traditional village of Alt-Marzahn and its windmill 2 A ‘line of desire’ in Marzahn open spaces 3 Siemensstadt, Berlin



Le Mirail ¡ Toulouse ¡ France

Planned as utopian project to modernize the country, many of the grands ensembles are now stigmatized as ‘quartiers sensibles’ (euphemistically, ‘neighborhoods at risk’). Other common names include citĂŠs, banlieus, quartiers, zones, HLM, ZUP‌

Toulouse, known as the ‘pink city’ for its distinctive brick architecture, is changing its color scheme to deep gray in the Le Mirail district. The grand ensemble is located just south of Toulouse’s historic center. The French Grand Ensemble There are currently over 250 grands ensembles which constitute approximately 18% of the total French housing stock, the highest proportion in Western Europe. The origin of the grand ensemble lies in the unstable social and economic conditions of the post-war period when France needed to build more, faster and higher. A number of national housing and urban policies (Plan Monnet in 1947, Plan Courant in 1953) called for a vast program of state-subsidized, suburban housing. Like the Anglo-Saxon housing estate and the Soviet microrayon, the grand ensemble is customarily a group of buildings built together as a single development, but the name speciďŹ cally characterizes 1


the French approach to mass housing. They are typically located on the outskirts of major French cities and were developed as completely new urban centers or extensions of peripheral villages. They were an entirely new collective habitat in rupture with the old city, housing an entirely new population. Volume 21

Toulouse Le Mirail As one of the ďŹ rst post-war mass housing projects proposed in France, Le Mirail in Toulouse was both an experimental form of urban planning as well as the largest housing project in the country. In the late 1950s Toulouse faced a growing housing shortage which pushed local authorities to erect a new town just south of the city. It was designed by architects Woods, Dony, Josic and Candilis (then a student under Le Corbusier) to accommodate 100,000 new inhabitants but ďŹ nancial constraints limited the developments to just under half of this initial number. The desire to create new ‘citĂŠs radieuses’ as an ideal of collective stability for both the family and the individual not only emerged from C.I.A.M. theories but as a general consensus to dramatically improve impoverished inner-city urban conditions. Le Mirail is composed of three areas, namely ‘Le Mirail – UniversitÊ’, ‘La Reynerie’ and ‘Bellefontaine’. Construction began in 1964 and was ďŹ nished in 1972. Three main housing typologies can be distinguished: Y-shaped apartment blocks, low-rise buildings and pavilion villas. The large ‘unitĂŠs’ are grouped around a number of community facilities including day-care centers, nursery schools, elementary schools, a secondary school, sport centers and a swimming pool, as well as a medicalsocial center,a housing unit for the elderly, a sociocultural center and a library. Large boulevards separate each area and integrate them within Toulouse’s wider transport system. A single platform connects the three areas together and every

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high-rise building includes galleries running along the 5th and 9th oors. The project also introduced experimental trafďŹ c management systems in separating pedestrians from vehicular trafďŹ c. Functionalist principles favored a complete separation between living, working, recreation and trafďŹ c. The social structure of Le Mirail was designed to conďŹ gure a new community in which the residents could gather, meet and socialize. The housing was designed for a diverse population although mostly young families and newly arrived immigrants moved in. While ethnic households were initially underrepresented, the demographics rapidly changed and the proportion of tenants from low-income groups, large and ‘foreign’ families grew within a couple of decades. This pattern of changing social composition was seen not only in Toulouse, but also on a national scale in most mass housing projects.

France’s history with collective forms of housing begins in 1894 with the establishment of an ‘Affordable Housing Society’ (HBM) for less fortunate families and large households. At the end of the 19th century urban migration far outweighed the construction of new homes. That situation resulted in overcrowded urban centers and slums in the suburbs which led to the rapid deterioration of hygienic conditions. The social housing act of 1894 stimulated a number of housing philanthropists to construct affordable housing, mostly located in collective buildings. Today social housing still makes up a large proportion of the rent housing stock (40-50%) and is referred to as HLM (habitation Ă loyer modĂŠrĂŠ).

THE FUNCTIONAL CITY According to Le Corbusier, the Functional City positions the individual and the collective at the center of the design and societal processes of building cities. The 94 points manifests the intentions in rethinking the concept of the city, urban life and individual needs. 1

Housing Composition


Linear blocks of various heights at angles of 90° or 120°, centered around a vertical core of transportation. With ďŹ ve, nine and 13 oors buildings, this type allows for a preferred high density of 120 to 150 homes per hectare. Low-rise buildings articulated at a 90° angle, centered around

29 77

a staircase. This type of grouping allows for 75 homes per hectare, with a two to four oor maximum. Pavilion-villas grouped in a horizontal system of low-density,



25 to 30 homes per hectare.


87 94

The city is only one element within an economic, social and political complex which constitutes the region Juxtaposed with economic, social and political values are values of a physiological origin which are bound up in the human person and which introduce concerns of both an individual and a collective order into the discussion. Life ourishes only to the extent of accord between the two contradictory principles that govern the human personality: the individual and the collective. (A plan is well conceived when it allows fruitful cooperation while making maximum provision for individual liberty) High buildings, set far apart from one another, must free the ground for broad verdant areas. The keys to urbanism are to be found in the four functions, inhabiting, working, recreation (in leisure time), and circulation Urbanism is a three-dimensional, not a two-dimensional science. Introducing the element of height will solve the problem of modern trafďŹ c and leisure by utilizing the open spaces thus created. Once the city is deďŹ ned as a functional unit, it should grow harmoniously in each of its parts, having at hand the spaces and intercommunications within which the stages of its development may be inscribed with equilibrium The initial nucleus of urbanism is a cell for living – a dwelling – and its insertion into a group forming a habitation unit of efďŹ cient size. Private interest will be subordinated to the collective interest

1 Façade of one of the blocks, quartier de la Bellefontaine 2 Housing estates map of Toulouse 3 Changing Toulouse red-brick colors. The ‘grey concrete’ new town of Le Mirail



Volume 21

Colonial mass architecture – The North African Experience

7HENTHE&RENCHARTCRITIC,Ă?ANDRE6AILLATlRST visited Morocco he described Casablanca as ‘a laboratory of Western life and a conservatory of /RIENTALLIFE)NTHES6AILLATDESCRIBEDTHEFUTURE traces of French colonialism in cities outside of metropolitan France. They would become a city divided, one fascinated both by the exotic preservation of the ‘medina’ and the rational frenzy to order urban spaces. From the North African colonies, Cameroon and the Ivory Coast across to the French Antilles and Madagascar, French architects and urban planners played a key role in deďŹ ning the local production of space. They strove after an evolutionist vision of cities, considering a restructuring of the urban fabric while projecting modernism as a catalyst for social change. Mass housing as an urban form was most developed in North African colonies such as Algeria and Morocco. Most of the housing projects on the outskirts of large European cities ďŹ nd their counterparts in Africa. The apparent success of the mass housing programs generated signiďŹ cant interest in Europe and although this was tarnished by nationalist sentiments within the colonized settlements, mass housing as an urban form became widely approved by the French administration which then begun to apply housing projects as an urban medicine across the country. 1

Colonial modernism is commonly presented as a total urbanism, a tabula rasa that reconďŹ gures habitat, space, neighborhoods and cities according to speciďŹ c and radical zoning. Cities clearly exempliďŹ ed the emerging principles of modernism,

a growing standardization and rationalization of public services and industry, an efďŹ cient road system and a hygienic lifestyle with the development of open spaces (sanitary corridors) and sunlight. The modern colonial city not only introduced a spatial urban zoning recommended by the Athens #HARTER BUTONEBUILTUPONTHESEGREGATION of local communities from the colonized town centers. This spatial segregation was reinforced by the difference in mass housing produced for the European population (up-scale public housing projects) and the ‘citĂŠs musulmanes’, or resettlement quarters which were uniformly of lower quality. This established duality in the production of space during the colonial period was later reected in the social hierarchy of cities once independence was gained INTHELATES

absorb a fast growing urban population. Today Algeria is looking to stimulate the private sector in the provision of affordable housing. The government launched a new formula intended for white-collar workers with salaries above 14,000 dinars ($193) per month. It consists of a 10% contribution to the cost of the home and monthly payments within the reach of those beneďŹ ting from them. These plans have been greeted with enthusiasm by this segment of the population. Other formulas have been introduced over the past ďŹ ve years to appeal to other population segments according to their abilities to pay and the speciďŹ c residential situations. The overall objective is to make home ďŹ nancing affordable to as many people as possible by offering a variety of ways to meet their needs and expectations.

Les Dunes, Algiers 1956 ,ES$UNESONTHEOUTSKIRTOF!LGIERSISA@citĂŠ musulmane’; it was built primarily to house the local population as part of re-housing programs. In the EARLYSTHE&RENCHBUILTALARGENUMBEROF estates to alleviate overcrowding in the Kasbah and improve the slum condition of the new urbanites. (OUSINGPOLICYWASALSOGIVENSPECIlCATTENTION to counter the emergence of nationalist sentiments and the newly formed political party, the National )NDEPENDENCE&RONT&,. 4HISPOLITICALSTRATEGY called for the construction of a huge number of estates with over 400 apartments each. The models used represented a very speciďŹ c normalization of the building systems. They consisted of two narrow GIGANTICMONOBLOCKSTRUCTURESMETERSLONG WITHAPARTMENTSEACH"ECAUSECONSTRUCTION was hasty and substandard one of the blocks deteriorated rapidly and parts collapsed a few years later. The rest of the building was demolished. $ESPITETHISFAILURE LARGE SCALEPRODUCTIONINTHE form of housing estates (citĂŠs), mono-blocks and low-rise continued to dominate ofďŹ cial construction FROMTHESTHROUGHTOTHES4HECOMMIT ment to the mass housing urban form was stimulated by socialist sentiments as well as the continuous improvement of standardization technologies which allowed for cheaper construction. National governments quickly developed a series of housing policies, such as the ‘Million housing’ program in Algeria, to address a growing housing shortage and

CitĂŠ Verticale, Casablanca 1953 Although not generally representative of colonial urbanism, the CitĂŠ Verticale in Casablanca is nonetheless an interesting example for it was the ďŹ rst housing project developed for the colonized and not for the colonizers. Architects Candilis and Woods proposed a plan – infused with C.I.A.M concepts – on an ‘epistemology of the everyday’. The CitĂŠ Verticale design was based on ďŹ eld studies of vernacular housing practices, local climatic conditions and culturally-speciďŹ c typologies including the traditional use of patios and the meticulous transition from private to public domain in the Islamic tradition. Architects and urbanists believed that anthropological studies were required not only in deference to the local cultures of the colonized, but also as a means to address local population housing needs. From this emerged the CitĂŠ Verticale, a high-rise structure consisting of patio-houses stacked together. The multi-level buildings featured high balconies, which gave the apartments an inward-looking privacy, and collective amenities. Yet this rationale of observation was criticized by those who would later combat the proliferation of housing estates in Europe. The ethnological and



anthropological methods applied for the project failed as soon as the built environment was negotiated and appropriated by the residents who began to insert windows, build extensions or wall the terraces.


Did You Know? The idea behind the Cite Verticale was to create homes for workers ANDLOCALEMPLOYEESWHOWORKEDFORTHE0ROTECTORATE(OWEVERTHE rent was so high for most of the people living in the ‘bidonvilles’ that few could afford the apartments that had been ‘built for them’.




Kim Liên · Hanoi · Vietnam Soon after Vietnam gained independence from France in 1954 the Soviets began to strongly influence planning and architecture in the new socialist state, especially in Hanoi. Among the imported ideas were the principles of the microrayon. From the 1960s to the 1980s adaptations of the Russian microrayon, called a Khu Tap The (KTT) meaning ‘the collective’, were built all over the country. One of the first and finest examples was built in Kim Liên, a neighborhood that shares its name with the birthplace of Ho Chi Minh. The KTTs most notable features include a vibrant, mustard yellow color, informal additions, like balconies and garages, and vernacular housing details, like pitched roofs.


City of Socialist Man In the early days of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam close economic ties with the Soviet Union led to Soviet influence in almost every aspect of society from education to architecture. It was during this period that these public housing complexes were built. Urban policy for major cities like Hanoi was executed with the general aim of ‘gradually eliminating their “consumer town” aspect’. In 1954 there were only ten qualified architects in Hanoi, all having been trained in the French-run Beaux Arts college. The socialist state demanded a new generation be trained in socialist practices. Many students enrolled in Soviet universities, such as the Kiev Institute of Architecture, and several socialist architecture institutes were built in Hanoi. From the 1960s on Soviet-trained Vietnamese architects and foreigners from the Soviet Bloc began practicing. They began to carry out the agenda President Ho Chi Minh had set for them: ‘Hanoi and Haiphong may have been destroyed to the foundations, but when we achieve the final victory, we will build them back even more spacious, larger and more beautiful!’ Volume 21

From that point on Soviet monuments, comprehensively planned satellite cities and KTTs began to spring up all over Vietnam’s built landscape. The socialist influence only waned with the ‘Doi Moi’ free market reforms in 1986. Travelers should make haste to see as much as you can before it’s too late! The Complex Between 1958 and 1990 thirty KTTs were built in Hanoi. The total area of these complexes, typically four to five storeys high, totaled 4,500,000m2, more than four times as large as Hanoi’s Old City and about equal to the entire city center. Early KTTs were built with traditional methods and materials, like brick and mortar. Kim Liên, built in two phases between 1960 and 1970, was one of the first to experiment with pre-fabricated construction methods. Over ten years the complex grew from the five initial buildings housing 20,000 people to 22 structures spread over 400,000m2 (over four million square feet). Adopting the principles of the Russian microrayon, Kim Liên and the KTT generally were designed with collective living in mind. Each unit featured a private living room and sleeping quarters, but families shared toilets and kitchens. In theory the state allocated 4-5m2 (43-53 square feet) per person, but often two families occupied a single unit due to housing shortages in Hanoi. Such communal living arrangements were meant to encourage brotherhood between citizens. Later KTTs were equipped with personal kitchenettes and toilets. Taking another cue from Soviet planning, whole districts of the Khu Tap The were centered around communal services, such as kindergartens, shops and medical care. Some KTTs were even used as staff housing for nearby state factories so all functions of life and work could be found in a single

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self-sufficient zone. Kim Liên did not include the full range of amenities initially, but they were later introduced after becoming common in all new complexes. Not long after construction was completed the complex began to suffer maintenance problems. The rent was too low to pay for general maintenance costs. Residents began to take matters into their own hands, adapting the public spaces and buildings to their own needs. Among the KTT Kim Liên was one of the complexes with the most illegal construction, in Vietnamese ‘xay chen’ meaning squeezed-in construction. Small shacks made of bamboo, straw or easily found materials crowded the public spaces between buildings and were used for storage, as additional living space or as shops. Residents often also expanded their own units with balconies and verandas. The Russian standards for microrayon construction also proved inadequate for the tropical climes of Hanoi where it can rain up to 20 cm (7.8 inches) an hour during monsoon season and reach 45°C (113°F) in the summer. Adjustments to the buildings had to be made including the addition of vernacular pitched roofs.


Did you know? The ambition to build socialist cities did not collapse with the Soviet Union. In 2007 Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced he would begin building new utopian cities that embody ‘21st-century socialism’. The first such city, Caribia (located outside of Caracas), will be finished around 2013. It will house 100,000 poor Venezuelans in four to five story, ecofriendly buildings and will include communal farms, museums, a


university and 10 community councils organized around the housing complexes. The city will also run its own a radio station and newspaper. There are currently five new cities under construction and 10 more in the planning process. Cuban planners and Belarusian consultants will ensure that the projects are up to standard. The new cities will be part of ‘The New Geometry of Power’ program, one of Chavez’s five motors of socialist revolution.

1 View of Kim Liên today 2 View of Kim Liên in the 1960s 2

3 Informal construction fills the open spaces of Kim Liên.



Volume 21

The Bijlmer ¡ Amsterdam The Netherlands

and garages. The blocks were separated by large green areas planted with grass and trees. The Bijlmer was originally designed with two levels of trafďŹ c. Cars drove on the top level above the lower level’s pedestrian avenues and bicycle paths. As part of regeneration initiatives the trafďŹ c routes were later redesigned and both vehicular and pedestrian trafďŹ c now share a single level.

A lot has changed in the Bijlmer. Although much of the once notorious estate in the Netherlands has already been demolished, the remaining blocks maintain the traditional high-rise character for the modernist enthusiast! ‘Amsterdam, Bijlmer. City of high- and low-rise. Bijlmermeer was built in part as an alternative for the residents of the dilapidated pre-war districts – “built without visionâ€?. In the Bijlmer there is space; more room for comfortable living.’ In 1974 the City of Amsterdam produced a public service ďŹ lm about the new residential area known as the Bijlmermeer. The excerpt spans through the newly built, large high-rise blocks and quickly contrasts them with the run-down, overcrowded central parts of Amsterdam. The area was advertised as new, clean, airy and away from the ills and pollution of central Amsterdam. Today much has changed both in the physicality of the buildings and the representations of the area. Yet the Bijlmer remains a modern legacy of satellite towns and high-rise buildings in the Netherlands.



The Complex Based on functionalist principles, the complex was designed for roughly 100,000 people and included schools, stores and recreation facilities. The planning concept was predicated on an orthogonal system of raised roads within honeycomb-shaped, ten-storey blocks. The buildings had several features that distinguished them from traditional Dutch high-rise ats such as tubular walkways connecting the ats

The majority of the buildings were ďŹ nished by the early 1970s. The lack of demand for apartments in large, deck-access blocks led to vast numbers of apartments standing empty through to the 1980s. The intended population, middle-class families, preferred the traditional single-family home over the high-rise apartment in the Bijlmer. Apartments were consequently allocated to people with less choice. Housing policies offered rent subsidies (Huursubsidie) to attract lower-income groups and newly arrived immigrants. Many of the Surinamese immigrants to the Netherlands following Suriname’s independence in 1975 were housed in the Bijlmer. The area quickly developed as an ethnically diverse, single-class neighborhood. By the end of the 1980s the Bijlmer had the distinct proďŹ le of a poor neighborhood. The strict spatial separation of the various functions left the area so autonomous as to be wholly unrelated to the rest of the city. The

16 | 17

surrounding landscape on one side and vertical concrete blocks on the other contributed to the impersonal atmosphere and gave the whole environment a desolate and eerie touch. The Bijlmer acquired a negative reputation nationally. Criticism centered on the relationship of the district’s spatial structure to the insecurity, vandalism and criminality of the community. In 1992 local authorities drafted a radical proposal to demolish a quarter of the housing stock, renovate another quarter and improve the remaining parts. After further consultation with residents in 2002 it was decided to demolish up to 60% of the high-rise blocks and diversify the area with a varied typology of housing including low- and medium-rise. Bijlmer beats The Bijlmer suffered from social stigmatization not only within its immediate environment, but on a national scale. This trend is now being addressed by the local council with a number of interventions the latest additions include the new football stadium for AFC Ajax, the Heineken Music Hall and a new cinema complex. Amid this new consumer-oriented environment a number of initiatives also reect on the cultural heritage of the area. The collective ‘Bijlmer Breakz’ label their music as ‘New European’ which is based on fast beats inuenced by the Dutch Dance Scene mixed with elements from their own cultural backgrounds. Artist Jonas Ohlsson composed Bijlmer Beats, a musical trail through the ‘Amsterdamse Poort’ shopping center. Through interviews, lyrics and sounds from the Hip Hop stars of tomorrow Bijlmer Beats narrates the rich, old and deep musical tradition of Amsterdam Southeast.


Dutch High-rise Facts Thirty percent of homes in the Netherlands are multi-family dwellings. Of this 30%, 6.7% are in the high-rise category. s -OSTHIGH RISEHOUSING WASBUILTINTHENINETEEN SIXTIES and seventies; s -OSTHIGH RISEHOUSING ISOWNEDBYHOUSINGASSOCIATIONS s OFHIGH RISEDWELLINGSAREOCCUPIEDBYONEORTWOPEOPLE s 4HEMOSTCOMMONHIGH RISEDWELLINGHASTHREEORFOURROOMSAND covers an area of between 60 and 100m2.



1 Stills from Amsterdam City Council Video presentation, 1974 2 Aerial view of Amsterdam in the early 1970s 3 Demolition plans 4 New developments 5 Bijlmer Breakz


The Grand Tour of Ruined Mass Housing Mass housing had a troubled history during the 20th century, often becoming stigmatized as a modern slum. From tower block complexes to informal, hyper-dense settlements, projects were sometimes condemned as crime-ridden, congested and lawless habitats. Over time and particularly in the Western world these projects began to exhibit the very characteristics municipalities had hoped to relieve by replacing urban slums. Many projects, like Pruitt-Igoe in St. Louis, Missouri, were demolished just decades after being built. They were abandoned as failed experiments in urban renewal and new strategies were sought to house the dislocated urban poor. Often mass housing itself was considered the culprit, with towers too tall and living quarters too dense. With the widespread demolition of complexes like these a global Grand Tour of mass housing ruins is now possible. What remains on the sites varies greatly from new developments to vacant lots and even memorial parks. Even if nothing remains of the original complexes, most continue to retain a strong cultural presence in the local area and some even do so globally, evident in attitudes toward the site after demolition. The Romantic traveler can see actual ruins as well, for example in Hong Kong’s Kowloon Walled City Park. 1


Ruins: Pruitt Igoe, St. Louis, Missouri Pruitt-Igoe is an iconic mass housing project. Designed by architects Minoru Yamasaki and George Hellmuth, it consisted of 33 identical 11-story towers over a 57-acre site in northern St. Louis, Missouri and was completed in 1956. It was built during a period of urban renewal in the U.S. during which slums were cleared and replaced by high-density tower blocks. The complex housed 15,000 people Volume 21in 2,700 units. By the 1970s it was

considered one of the most dangerous housing projects in the nation and was slated for demolition. After its demolition in 1976 the complex was widely used as a symbol for the failures of Modernist design principles, especially those advocated by the CIAM Athens Charter and Le Corbusier. The common interpretation is that modern architecture’s blind idealism and unwillingness to consider real world social conditions was responsible for Pruitt-Igoe’s fate. Some have argued that urban policy, governmental neglect and the social conditions of St. Louis were more to blame. Whether the fault was in policy or design, the complex today continues to be invoked as a example of mass housing failure. Today a visitor to the Pruitt-Igoe site will mostly find a wild urban forest born from decades of neglect. Since the 1980s the city of St. Louis and many developers have fielded countless redevelopment plans to revive the area with little success. The 1996 ‘Gateway Village’ plan came closest in this regard. The $127.5 million project proposed the development of 781 single-family, middle-class homes surrounded by a 9-hole golf course. Detractors, many of whose homes would have had to be demolished, called it ‘a playground for the rich’ and ‘the golf course in the ghetto’. Other proposals have included industrial parks, a nature preserve, a community center, a supermarket, a job creation center and a pharmaceutical plant. In 1994 the Gateway Magnet Schools were completed, covering 18 of the original 57-acre site. The schools are the only successful redevelopment plan for the site to date. A permanent photography exhibition in the hallway of the elementary school documents the tragic history of the Pruitt-Igoe area from the mid-1800s to 1995 for students. Former residents of the Pruitt-Igoe towers and current residents around the infamous area continue to hope the site can overcome what some see as a historic curse in favor of a renaissance that can rehabilitate the Pruitt-Igoe name. Ruins: Kowloon Walled City, Hong Kong Before its demolition in 1993 the Kowloon Walled City was one of the densest areas in the world, housing as many as 50,000 people over 26,000m2 (280,000 sq. ft.). The complex contained 300 buildings, with 8,800 apartments, 1,500 clinics, 570 workshops and 148 shops packed so closely

18 | 19

together they formed a single, monolithic block. The locals called it ‘Hak Nam,’ ‘Dark City’ in Cantonese, because almost no sunlight could reach the ground between the narrow passages, typically no more than a meter or two wide. Without architects or engineers residents built the city in a glut of improvisation. It became a selfsufficient shanty city with its own industries, infrastructures and community structures. Thus it was not mass housing in the traditional sense of being designed and developed as a single complex. Yet in its extreme density, functional self-sufficiency and isolation from its surrounding context, the Walled City epitomized the most identifiable qualities of mass housing. The unique form and society of Kowloon Walled City resulted from an equally unique political history. The Walled City was exempted from the 99-year lease of the New Territories to the British in 1898, but soon after signing the lease the British attempted to wrest control of the city, occupying it in 1899. Since neither China nor Britain claimed complete jurisdiction over the city, it became a lawless city of squatters, outcasts and refugees most of whom escaped China after the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949. The lack of municipal oversight created a haven for various types of people looking to live beyond the law from criminals to illegal immigrants. Selfsufficiency was necessary. The residents dug 70 wells to a depth of 300 feet to find drinking water and these were used until the 1970s when eight municipal pipes were finally installed. At the time of its demolition the city supported hundreds of unlicensed professionals including 87 dentists, 63 doctors and 148 business owners, mostly operating restaurants where no health inspector had ever tread. Few police dared enter the area so it was notorious for its opium dens, brothels and gambling houses. Nonetheless many residents insisted on the existence of a mutually supportive neighborhood, citing a kindergarten and an elderly home as examples of community institutions. Setting aside jurisdictional disputes, the Chinese and British governments agreed in 1987 that the Walled City should be demolished. Many believed that the unexpected cooperation came in anticipation of Hong Kong’s 1997 repatriation after which the Walled City would be a Chinese problem.

Multiple attempts by the Hong Kong government in the 1950s and ‘60s to demolish the slum district were met with riots and protests both in Beijing and in the Walled City. Despite this, in 1987 a Chinese government spokesman declared the demolition in the interest of ‘the prosperity and stability of the entire Hong Kong’. Most residents agreed to the terms of compensation and relocation, but some violently resisted eviction, either demanding more compensation or simply refusing to leave their beloved homes. By 1992 all the residents were gone. In 1995 the Kowloon Walled City Park was completed on the site of the recently demolished Walled City. Visit the park to see some of the original foundations and other archaeological artifacts of the famed, ruined city. R.I.P. Mass Housing † Aylesbury Estate,

† Bijlmermeer, Amsterdam

London, UK (1963-2011)


2,700 apartments,

Partial demolition

10,000 residents

of monoblock high-rises

† Courneuve, Paris,

† Robert Taylor Homes,

France (1964-2011)

Chicago, USA (1962-2007)

2 monoblocks of 15 levels,

28 towers, 4,321 apartments,

over 700 apartments.

27,000 residents



1 All 33 identical towers of Pruitt-Igoe were demolished by 1975. 2 Kowloon Walled City, demolished 1993, Aerial View 3 Kowloon Walled City Park, today



Volume 21

Focus on: Mass Housing in Argentina


Argentines commonly use the name ‘Barrio FONAVI’ for neighborhoods like Fuerte Apache, public housing projects characterized by repeated housing blocks. The term FONAVI is an abbreviation of ‘Fondo Nacional de la Vivienda’ (National Housing Fund). Occasionally a complex not funded by the state will also be colloquially called FONAVI. Generally, Barrio FONAVI are constructed for the temporary or permanent relocation of people living in informal settlements or emergency housing. In Buenos Aires the term is not frequently used. Instead the locals call these complexes ‘monobloqueros’.

The Complex

Fuerte Apache’s construction is rare among mass housing complexes. It is composed of 13 ‘Nudos’ or knots and 50 ‘Tiras’ or strips. Each knot is made up of four connected towers, ranging from 11 to 13 floors. Strips are each three stories. The knots and towers are each designated No. 1-13 and No. 1-50, respectively. Recently a small complex named

Monobloqueros Tablada in Buenos Aires, Barrio 512 Viviendas in Pergamino

housing experience!

Slum-dwellers in Latin Amerca (selected countries) Percentage of Urban Population Living in Slums

% 100 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0

Did you know? Footballer Carlos Tévez is from Fuerte Apache. The local hero attributes his

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success to growing up there: ‘What I lived nt

People and Culture Despite Fuerte Apache’s reputation as a dangerous slum, many inhabitants are proud to have lived there. Some have even received creative inspiration from the Barrio. The successful film ‘Fuerte Apache’ captures some of the area’s richness, in spite of or because of its character. Perhaps the neighborhood is most famous in the country’s hip-hop subculture because of the popular rap group Fuerte Apache (http://www.myspace. p y p com/fuerteapache p ) that formed in 1988. Their songs mostly deal with life in the barrio. The group typically raps about the difficulty of life in the mass housing complex after which they are named. Yet they always refer to the neighborhood with pride and celebrate their experiences. On their latest album, Estillo Monobloqueros (Monoblocker Style), they rap: ‘In the monoblock ghetto / Without lies and with action / I live life to the fullest / 100% fun / In Fuerto Apache, the best investment / To live among women / blessed debauchery.’


and Barrio Grandoli in Rosario. Visit them all to get the full Argentine mass


History Originally called Padre Mujica when built in 1973, it was renamed Barrio Ejército de los Andes in 1976 after the military coup overthrowing Isabel Perón. It was nicknamed ‘Fuerte Apache’ (Fort Apache) by the journalist José de Zer in 1980 to describe how forbidding the enclave was to those not living in it, even to local police. At first a much smaller complex, Fuerte Apache’s first inhabitants were poor, rural Argentines migrating to the city. Then, in preparation for the 1978 World Cup, the city built the complex as it can be seen today, except for two towers demolished in 2000. Former mayor Brigadier General Osvaldo Cacciatore relocated thousands of poor families to the complex to improve the image of the city in time for the games. Built on the western edge of Buenos Aires, Fuerte Apache is one of the largest ‘monobloqueros’ (‘mono-block’ complexes) in Argentina.

Other famous examples of Barrio FONAVI in Argentina include


Officially called ‘Barrio Ejército de los Andes’ (Neighborhood of the Andean Army), this famous Buenos Aires neighborhood was recently immortalized in the film of the same name about the troubled lives of young people growing up there. It is one of the more dangerous neighborhoods in the capital, but as a unique example of mass housing architecture it is a must for true aficionados.

‘La Villa de Los Rusos’ (The Village of the Russians) was built near knots 11, 12 and 13. With its buildings packed tightly together, the complex lacks the large swaths of open space one typically sees in Soviet or European examples. A great density is achieved despite the relatively low height of the ‘Tiras’. The regular system of alternating types of towers and the compact layout makes Fuerte Apache a truly unique complex. The very adventurous can attempt to re-enact history by travelling through the underground tunnels that connect some of the towers with the ‘Cuarteles militares de Ciudadela’, the region’s military barracks. The tunnels were used during the 1976 military coup.


Fuerte Apache p · Buenos · Aires Argentina

through there I couldn’t have experienced anywhere else. It made me who I am’.


About the neighborhood he says, ‘Only the strongest survive’. An advertisement for Nike which bears his image proclaims: ‘Born in Fuerte Apace, loved everywhere’.

1 View of Fuerte Apache 2 A fan with photo of Carlos Tévez 3 Festival in Fuerte Apache 4 Hip- Hop group Fuerte Apache 5 Carlos Tevez




environmental impact. Some questioned its scale, others its location on the outskirts of Genoa. This was reected in the national debate around masshousing and rapid suburban development which failed to take environmental and social dimensions fully into account.

Italian realism and the modern city Italian neorealism was a style of ďŹ lm dominant in the 1940’s and the early 1950’s characterized by stories about the lower classes dealing with the difďŹ cult post-war economic and social conditions, and a focus on collectivity rather than the individual. They often used the changing face and landscape of the city as central backdrops. Late neo-realist productions featured the emergence of new peripheral



Lavatrice ¡ Genoa ¡ Italy The application of rational building technology, prefabrication and assembly techniques, usually results in repetitive formations in the city. Yet while keeping principles of pre-fabrication, there are a remarkable number of mass-housing sites in Italy that break the monotonous pattern. Lavatrice in Genoa is one of them and according to urban legend it was inspired by the design of a washing machine. This atypical structure features a unique design with a maze of corridors, arcades and stairs. Mass Housing in Italy Some of the ďŹ rst apartments in the world were built in Italy. Insulae in ancient Rome were blocks of grouped buildings or single structures reaching over ďŹ ve stories high. While these structures are nowhere to be found in the modern city, they deďŹ ned a certain tradition of living in higher structures in metropolitan areas. Before the Second World War a large proportion of housing was dense and high. Today Italian housing is predominantly multi-family dwellings. More than 70% of these are in buildings with more than two units. There are a total of four million apartments in high-rise estates, but there are signiďŹ cant qualitative and quantitative differences between the industrial north and the less developed south. Genoa is an old, industrialized city and an important seaport in the north of Italy. The city has a population of about 610,000 and the urban area of about 900,000. The abrupt coastline has been shaped by urban development and gives the city a fortress-like feeling. The Lavatrice estate is located northwest of Genoa’s linear city.


The washing machines The Lavatrice estate, also referred to as Pegli 3, was Volume designed21by engineer Aldo Rizzo along with

architects Angelo Sibilla and Aldo Pino in the late 1970s. It earned its nickname of Washing Machines (lavatrici) on account of its unusual facades made of slabs of concrete with large openings in the shape of diamonds and circles. The complex is divided into four parallel buildings overlooking a major road network between the districts of Pra’ and Pegli. Each building faces the coast and consists of approximately 150 apartments rolling down the landscape as a cascade of courtyards. There were rumors that the design for Pegli 3 was a replicate of a discarded architecture competition from the Middle East. However the architects never conďŹ rmed the rumor and the name Lavatrice is used by the residents of the complex as well as by a wider public in Genoa.





It was not long before the complex was regarded as a symbol of urban decay. The buildings quickly showed signs of structural defects: the roof of each unit inated with the rain. Local authorities failed to maintain the buildings which led to relatively precarious living conditions. Some residents therefore began to maintain the buildings themselves and even refurbish them at their own cost. The project was widely criticized for its visual and






Volume 21

In the last two decades a growing number of residential high-rise complexes have mushroomed up in the area. The Apadana and Fakori complexes feature the same high standard of apartment interiors, collective spaces and landscaping between the buildings. The area is thought to house over 100,000 residents.


Iranian construction in figures Housing Stock: 12,349,000

Ekbatan · Tehran · Iran εϩέ̭΍̭Ώ΍Ε΍ϥ Tehran, the capital of the Islamic Republic of Iran, is the largest city in the Middle East. It is famous for its numerous resorts on the Alborz slopes, large museums, palaces as well as its many housing complexes. The sprawling megacity is fragmented by the many attempts to control its urban development through mass housing projects and provides a rich account of this architecture typology in Muslim countries. American Dream in Iran Infused with modernist ideals, the Pahlavi régime called for instant modernization and westernization of Iran in the 1960s. In search for a new Persepolis, the Shah had a new master plan (1964) drawn up by the American firm Gruen Associates. It proposed a framework for satellite towns, apartment complexes, office buildings, parks and palaces. The Shah had long been pro-American and his utopian vision of the future Tehran reflected an idealistic representation of the planned and tamed metropolis featuring a plethora of meadows, geometrical highways and cul-de-sacs. Today, as part of a wider extension, a giant shopping center is being built in Shahrak-e-Ekbatan and according to the developer The Mega Mall is ‘a place which can bring all members of the families joy, excitement, tranquility and satisfaction’. This 1

reverberates strangely with this process of Americanization initiated back in the 1960s.

Housing shortage: 3,500,000

Annual turnover of the construction industry: US$38.4 billion

Shahrak-e-Ekbatan Most high-rise schemes in Iran are designed to attract a more affluent population. Because of strict building codes and earthquake regulations, construction costs are significantly higher and therefore these buildings are not included in large public housing programs. Social housing schemes in Iran are limited and consists of subsidized housing facilities for target groups in low-rise houses that do not require extensive building specifications. The concept of mass-housing including high-rise projects is largely handed over to the private sector. In fact, most Muslim countries tend to accord private companies the right to participate in building activities. Teheran developers have proposed a variety of up-market high-rise apartments across the city, such as Hormozan, Mahestan, Pardisan. Ekbatan lies west of Teheran and is a modernist apartment complex along the foothills of the Alborz and Tochal mountains. It was part of the master plan for the metropolis designed to accommodate new populations coming from rural Iran. An American firm designed the buildings, creating 15,500 new units in two distinct phases. Although construction started in 1975, it was dramatically slowed down due to the change of regime in 1979. Construction was then taken up by a French contractor. Ekbatan is a Middle Eastern tribute to Brutalism; it consists of a series of double row of U-shaped apartment buildings which are stepped down toward a central spine with a shopping center. The space between buildings is taken up by well-maintained communal gardens and swimming pools. Phase two of the construction consisted of large, 12-storey high-rise monoblocks assembled at different angles to create variety in the neighborhood’s composition. 24 | 25

4 Housing construction rate: 2000 units a day

US$143 billion allocated to restoration of decaying buildings


Fireworks Wednesday ‘Chaharshanbe Suri’ is an ancient Persian festival dating at least to the early Zoroastrian era (1700 BC). It is a purification rite and ‘suri’ itself means redness which hints at the color of fire. Loosely translated, this means you want fire to take your paleness, sickness and problems and in turn give you redness, warmth and energy. There is no religious significance attached to Chaharshanbe Suri and it serves as a cultural festival for Persian Jews, Muslims, Armenians, Kurds, Turks and Zoroastrians alike. The celebration in Ekbatan has a large following and starts on the last Tuesday night of the year with people making bonfires on the street and jumping over them.


1 Nawab street development, a Hausmannian-style cut through the dense urban core 2 Ekbatan Brutalism 3 Views over the Ekbatan Greeneries 4 Fires of the Chaharshanbe Suri. 5 Teheran landscape with the Ekbatan complex on the foreground


renovated or rebuilt as new mass housing complexes. With Tokyoís high rents and cramped living quarters, these complexes attract young families, students and even foreigners. Describing their reasons for moving into Hikarigaoka Park Town to a local newspaper, one young couple said, ëIf we wanted somewhere in an urban area that has plenty of greenery, the only answer was a large danchi.í



Hikarigaoka Park Town · Tokyo · Japan Hikarigaoka Park Town is the biggest residential housing complex in Nejima, a northwest ward of Tokyo, and is also one of the most desirable places to live in Japan. The well-maintained towers sit in one of Tokyo’s most beautiful parks and are serviced by a diverse set of public amenities. Bucking the common assumption of government housing as slum, Hikarigaoka Park Town is not to be missed.

moving to live close to their relatives,’ reports Masako Muto, president of Smile Hikarigaoka Co. It’s common for up to three generations of a family living in different units to share everything including bills, childcare and even groceries.

The Danchi Tokyo today has about 260,000 units of danchi, literally ëgroup landí, mostly built between the 1950s and 1970s. Essentially equivalent to the public housing we see in western countries, the majority of danchi were built on urban peripheries to satisfy post-war housing shortages, especially for lowerclass families migrating to cities. Also like the Western model, at times they have been stigmatized as being difficult places to live, with reports of higher than average suicide rates and social alienation. Today the model has changed and the many consider themselves lucky to live in more recently constructed danchi like Hikarigaoka Park Town. There are toei-jutaku for low income and kodanjutaku for middle-income residents. These are better maintained than their Western counterparts and dilapidated complexes are constantly being Mass Housing in Asia Eight of the ten most densely populated cities in the world are in South and East Asia; five of these eight (Mumbai, Kolkata, Shenzhen, Chennai and Shanghai) are in China or India. These two countries also have some of the highest urbanization rates in the world. As a result mass housing is hyper-dense. The tallest mass housing towers in the world




Plan a Trip: Homes of the Lucky Masses Hyakunincho 4-chome district, Tokyo While in Tokyo why not visit the nearby Shinjuku ward, also on the Toei Oedo metro line. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government recently replaced many 1960s-era public housing buildings with these sexier white towers. Unfortunately residents are beginning to have trouble keeping up with higher rents for these fancy housing blocks. 3 Peter Cooper Village – Stuyvesant Town, New York City Head to the Big Apple to see Peter Cooper Village—Stuyvesant Town, a successful private housing community completed in 1947 downtown near the super-trendy East Village. Built in the same style as public housing for the urban poor, these towers are constantly are mistaken for their more dangerous cousins. Yet this neighborhood is incredibly desirable in one of the most competitive real estate markets in the world: a one bedroom unit measuring 65m2 (700 sq. ft.) will run you about $2,400 a month!

are in Asia, often climbing to 30 storeys or more. About half of Hong Kong’s residents currently live in public housing estates. These buildings are almost all high-rises. Recently

1 View of Hikarigaoka Towers 2 Hanami Parties in Hikarigaoka park 3 Cherry blossoms at Hikarigaoka park

developments have reached 40 storeys. Although less dense than the

4 Surrounding area of Hikarigaoka

other East Asian capitals, Tokyo has a fair share of towering, mass

5 The Japanese Royal Family

produced housing complexes. More remarkable in Tokyo is the quality of these mass produced homes. In contrast to their North American counterparts, East Asia does not stigmatize life in mass housing towers. In some places, it’s the only way to live.


Living in Hikarigaoka Built between 1983 and 1992, Hikarigaoka Park Town houses 34,000 residents over 186 hectares. Developed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Housing Authority, this public housing complex, or danchi (ಷഄ), includes a nearby municipal park, a people’s center, a post office, a school and a library. It is serviced by a nearby metro station on the Toei Oedo line and is near the large IMA shopping center, various sports facilities and a botanical garden. One of the most pleasant parks in the Tokyo Metro area, Hikarigaoka Park is a constant source of beauty for the tower block inhabitants. Less crowded than more central parks, it attracts locals from around Tokyo looking to escape the city bustle. It’s most beautiful during cherry blossom season when you can see locals holding their annual ‘hanami’ parties. Visitors should bring their binoculars, because the park is also a well-known bird sanctuary. The most prominent and attractive feature of the mass housing complex, Hikarigaoka Park gives ‘towers in the park’ a whole new meaning. Already thinking of making your weekend visit a permanent stay? Before you start packing, make sure you can afford it. A typical one-bedroom unit can cost 134,800 yen or 1,035 euro ($1,450) per month for only 54m2 (580 sq.ft.). More than money, aspiring tenants need21 luck to win the lottery draw for units in Volume

‘At least 30% of property transactions these days concern families

any of Tokyo’s municipally owned housing. The waiting list for some of Tokyo’s units are so long, chances of success can be as low as 25,000:1.

26 | 27



Volume 21

Mass Housing Glossary

Airey Houses: early pre-fabricated concrete houses designed by Sir Edwin Airey in the UK as early as 1925. Back-to-back Housing: a housing type formerly common in the United Kingdom in which the backs of buildings touch each other, forming blocks. The method was primarily used to achieve higher density to house the working class. Barrio FONAVI: a public housing project in Argentina. FONAVI is an acronym for Fondo Nacional de la Vivienda (National Housing Fund). The term is commonly used for any district built with repeated forms, not just projects developed by the FONAVI. Ceau ima (‘Ceaushima’): a vernacular Romanian term for buildings and urban zones from a period of rapid housing construction under Nicolae Ceau escu. The term is a mix of the former president’s name and Hiroshima, referring to the widespread demolition necessary for the new construction. C.H.A.V.: a backronym in colloquial use in the UK, from the derogatory term ‘chav’ that applies to young people of a certain subculture. The acronym stands for ‘Council Housed and Violent.’ The root word ‘chav’ may have its origin in the Romani word ‘chavo’ meaning boy. Cluster Block: a tower type in which several stories of apartments are grouped around a central service tower, with circulation and other amenities. The cluster block is a typical form taken by high-rise, pre-fabricated residential towers. Commie block: a derogatory term for a tower block, block of flats or high-rise apartment buildings. Commune: a group of people living together with little or no regard for ownership of property, money and other things of material value. In extreme examples, everything is shared from children to spouses. Cooperative Housing Project: an arrangement in which an association shares ownership of a group of housing units and common spaces. Every shareholder is entitled one housing unit, agrees to abide by rules set by the larger association, and are typically expected to participate in the governance of the association. Cooperative housing project is often abbreviated to ‘co-op’. Council Estate: a form of public housing in the United Kingdom. Although not the majority of state

housing, it commonly refers to large housing estates made of a standardized building structure. Custom-built: a term describing buildings and other products that are custom-designed and built for a particular individual. Cutie de Chibrituri: state housing in Romania. The construction of these complexes was mostly carried out under Nicolae Ceau escu’s communist regime, from March 1965 until December 1989. The program for the construction was called ‘systematization’, which called for doubling the number of Romanian cities by 1990. The term means ‘matchboxes’ in Romanian. Danchi ಷഄ : the Japanese word, meaning ‘group land’, for a large cluster of apartment buildings of a particular post-war design. Falowiec: a Polish building type, translating to ‘wavy block’. It is a linear building which has a structure and an arrangement of balconies resembling a wave. Favela: a Brazilian form of shantytown, or a dense collection of crudely built huts, usually selfconstructed by the inhabitants. Gecekondu: a housing type in Turkey similar to a shanty. A neighborhood made of gecekondu is called a gecekondu bölgesi. In Turkish, the term means to put up a house quickly without governmental permission. Proliferating in periods of rapid urbanization, they are usually found around the perimeters of Turkey’s metropolises. Gemeindebau: German for ‘council housing’, this is a residential building erected by a municipality in Austria, generally for low-income families. In Vienna today about one-third of the population, or 600,000 people, live in such buildings. Grand Ensemble: French term for a large group of monoblock or high-rise structures with at least 1000 dwellings. The Grand Ensemble, as an urban planning tool, originated from post-war national housing and urban reconstruction policies, which advocated the creation of autonomous areas with their own centers, shopping and recreational facilities. Großsiedlungen: large housing projects in Germany (1950-1980) and eastern Germany (post-1980). Großsiedlungen were first used as a substitute for war-damaged housing. Insula: large apartment buildings in Ancient Rome, usually inhabited by lower and middle class Romans. Commonly six or seven stories, some are as high 28 | 29

as nine stories (before height restrictions came into effect). The term means ‘island’ in Latin. Khu Tap The: the Vietnamese form of mass-housing inspired by the Soviet microrayon. They are typically complexes of 4 or 5-story buildings clustered around communal services, including schools and child care facilities. The term in Vietnamese means ‘the collective.’ Kommunalka: (Russian: ɤɨɦɦɭɧɚɥɤɚ) a shared apartment in former Soviet countries. Two or more families share basic collective amenities such as the bathroom and kitchen. It was introduced as a social experiment in the 1920s and still exists today. Line of desire: a track worn across grassy spaces where people naturally walk regardless of formal pathways: the ultimate unbiased expression of natural human purpose. Mass Housing: an umbrella term describing various housing methods and types specifically designed to house the masses, typically at high density and low cost. Microrayon: microdistrict or microraion (Russian: ɦɢɤɪɨɪɚɣɨғɧ): a type of residential complex found in the Soviet Union and post-Soviet states constructed of standard, repeated residential blocks distributed typically over 10-60 hectares. Modular Design: a design method using a system of standard scales, units and pieces, allowing for dynamic interchangeability of parts and uses. Open Building: an approach to mass housing that considers equally the responsibility of the architects and that of the individual inhabitant in the design of the built environment. Coming from a research foundation established by architect John Habraken, the concept proposes the separation of a base building (to be provided by a housing corporation or developer) from a flexible interior structure (to be decided on by the resident) to allow for the involvement and meaningful participation of the residents. Panelák: a high-rise panel building in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. These Communist-era buildings were pre-fabricated and built in prestressed concrete. The full name is panelový dom (Slovak) / panelový d m (Czech), which translates as ‘panel house / prefabricated-sections house’. Panelház: high-rise panel buildings in Hungary built primarily during the country’s Communist era after World War II.

Plattenbau: a building constructed of large, prefabricated concrete slabs. The word is German and translates as ‘panel building’. Plattenbauten were typical in East Germany, but also were widely built in West Germany and elsewhere to serve as public housing. Projects: the colloquial term in the United States for public housing projects or project homes built by the municipality for low-income families. In popular culture, the term has come to be associated with tough, dangerous neighborhoods overrun by gangs and drugs. Shanty town: a settlement of improvised dwellings typically made from found materials and inhabited by the urban poor in developing parts of the world. The term first use is recorded in 1876 as a translation from the French chantier, referring to lumberjacks’ cabins. Single-family dwellings: a self-contained residential building, e.g. detached houses, terraced houses, semi-detached houses, farmhouses, which houses one family or a small group of individuals. Social Housing: an umbrella term for rental housing owned and managed by the state, usually for the working class. Tenement House: a type of multi-unit dwelling mostly found in the US and Scotland. They typically house recent urban migrants and have shared facilities. Terraced House: typically from the Georgian period in the United Kingdom, these row houses had uniform fronts and uniform height that created a single ensemble. It was widely used in late 19th-century Britain to house the new urban working-classes. Tower Block: a multi-unit high-rise apartment building. Occasionally they may be referred to as MDU or Multi Dwelling Unit. Ugsarmal bair (or Urgsamal): high-rise panel buildings in Mongolia. Translated literally as ‘assembled building’, urgsarmals were built mostly in the 1970s and 1980s with Soviet funding and designs. Depending on the region, they were high-rises or four stories.


´7HPSWYHUWLJRDWWKHWRSVRI)XHUWR Credits $SDFKHWRZHUVDQGH[SORUHWKHUXLQVRIWKH Editors GHPROLVKHG.RZORRQFLW\'LVFRYHU ,WDOLDQQHRUHDOLVWFLQHPDORFDWLRQVDQG Henry Ng, Simon Pennec Concept ,UDQLDQ%UXWDOLVWDUFKLWHFWXUHµ SVESMI Isometric drawings Ellen Smit, Mariska van Rijswijk, Stephan Saarloos, Gert-Jan Henckel, Gerwin Heidemann, with special thanks to Mahssa Pahlavan Picture credits Ian Lambot, Chiara Centanaro, Simon Pennec, David Liaudet 78

Volume 21

Mass-Housing Guide  
Mass-Housing Guide  

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