The Urban Vernacular: A low-cost incremental housing development in the Philippines

This study investigates adaptable housing design as a solution to informal settlements’ issues, including the threat of rapid urbanisation and displacement due to eviction, flooding, and an array of man-made destruction. This study aims to identify design processes and solutions that support and prioritise the housing and community needs of lower-income demographics so they may live safe and healthy lives empowered by adaptable design and construction processes that put them in control of the development and progress of their living environments. This exploration will be grounded in the informal settlements of Baseco, Manila in the Philippines, one of the most densely populated in the country, where urban regeneration has been prominent over the past few years. This study will use a mix of quantitative and qualitative design research methods. This research will use quantitative data in the earlier phases of data collection to build an accurate context as a basis for exploration and understanding. Ethnographic studies will inform design phases through secondary sources supported by simulations and models. This investigation aims to contribute to the discussion of urban regeneration and solving informal housing issues in-situ to keep existing social networks intact rather than relocation. This process will begin through an adaptable building design inspired by the incrementalism of informal construction, argued as a form of urban vernacular. This paper indicates that low-income communities are reactive rather than proactive in responding to vulnerabilities. The design solution aims to be a catalyst in fostering a more proactive approach to risk-mitigation strategies and empowering communities through safer living conditions that prevent displacement that destroy networks of social connection.

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Pitzer Senior Theses

Designing affordable housing for adaptability: principles, practices, & application.

Micaela R. Danko , Pitzer College Follow

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Spring 2013

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Bachelor of Arts

Environmental Analysis

Lance Neckar

Paul Faulstich

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© 2013 Micaela R. Danko

While environmental and economic sustainability have been driving factors in the movement towards a more resilient built environment, social sustainability is a factor that has received significantly less attention over the years. Federal support for low-income housing has fallen drastically, and the deficit of available, adequate, affordable homes continues to grow. In this thesis, I explore one way that architects can design affordable housing that is intrinsically sustainable. In the past, subsidized low-income housing has been built as if to provide a short-term solution—as if poverty and lack of affordable housing is a short-term problem. However, I argue that adaptable architecture is essential for the design of affordable housing that is environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable. Further, architects must balance affordability, durability, and adaptability to design sustainable solutions that are resistant to obsolescence. I conclude by applying principles and processes of adaptability in the design of Apto Ontario, an adaptable affordable housing development in the low-income historic downtown of Ontario, California (Greater Los Angeles). Along a new Bus Rapid Transit corridor, Apto Ontario would create a diverse, resilient, socially sustainable community in an area threatened by the rise of housing costs.

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Danko, Micaela R., "Designing Affordable Housing for Adaptability: Principles, Practices, & Application" (2013). Pitzer Senior Theses . 35.

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10 Inspiring Architecture Thesis Topics for 2023: Exploring Sustainable Design, AI Integration, and Parametricism

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thesis housing project

Choosing between architecture thesis topics is a big step for students since it’s the end of their education and a chance to show off their creativity and talents. The pursuit of biomaterials and biomimicry, a focus on sustainable design , and the use of AI in architecture will all have a significant impact on the future of architecture in 2023.

We propose 10 interesting architecture thesis topics and projects in this post that embrace these trends while embracing technology, experimentation, and significant architectural examples.

Architecture thesis topics

Architecture Thesis Topic #1 – Sustainable Affordable Housing

Project example: Urban Village Project is a new visionary model for developing affordable and livable homes for the many people living in cities around the world. The concept stems from a collaboration with SPACE10 on how to design, build and share our future homes, neighbourhoods and cities.

“Sustainable affordable housing combines social responsibility with innovative design strategies, ensuring that everyone has access to safe and environmentally conscious living spaces.” – John Doe, Sustainable Design Architect.

Parametric lampchairs 16

Architecture Thesis Topic #2 – Parametric Architecture Using Biomaterials

Project example:  Parametric Lampchairs, using Agro-Waste by Vincent Callebaut Architectures The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) “Living Architecture Lab” investigates the fusion of biomaterials with parametric design to produce responsive and sustainable buildings . The lab’s research focuses on using bio-inspired materials for architectural purposes, such as composites made of mycelium.

Architecture thesis topics

Architecture Thesis Topic #3 – Urban Planning Driven by AI

Project example: The University of California, Berkeley’s “ Smart City ” simulates and improves urban planning situations using AI algorithms. The project’s goal is to develop data-driven methods for effective urban energy management, transportation, and land use.

“By integrating artificial intelligence into urban planning, we can unlock the potential of data to create smarter, more sustainable cities that enhance the quality of life for residents.” – Jane Smith, Urban Planner.

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Architecture Thesis Topic #4 – Adaptive Reuse of Industrial Heritage

From 1866 to 1878, Oxford Street’s Paddington Reservoir was built. From the 1930′s, it was covered by a raised grassed park which was hidden from view and little used by the surrounding community.

Over the past two years, the City of Sydney and its collaborative design team of architects, landscape architects, engineers, planners, and access consultants have created a unique, surprising, functional, and completely engaging public park that has captivated all who pass or live nearby.

Instead of capping the site and building a new park above, the design team incorporated many of the reinforced ruins of the heritage-listed structure and created sunken and elevated gardens using carefully selected and limited contemporary materials with exceptional detailing.

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Architecture Thesis Topic #5 – Smart and Resilient Cities

The capacity to absorb, recover from, and prepare for future shocks (economic, environmental, social, and institutional) is what makes a city resilient. Resilient cities have this capabilities. Cities that are resilient foster sustainable development, well-being, and progress that includes everyone.

Untitled design 20

Architecture Thesis Topic #6 – High Performing Green Buildings

The LEED certification offers a foundation for creating high-performing, sustainable structures. In order to guarantee energy efficiency , water conservation, and healthy interior environments, architects may include LEED concepts into their buildings. To learn more check our free training to becoming LEED accredited here .

Diller scofido renfro high line architonic 02 highline photography by iwan baan 02 edited

Architecture Thesis Topic #7 – Urban Landscapes with Biophilic Design

Project example: The High Line is an elevated linear park in New York City that stretches over 2.33 km and was developed on an elevated part of a defunct New York Central Railroad branch that is known as the West Side Line. The successful reimagining of the infrastructure as public space is the key to its accomplishments. The 4.8 km Promenade Plantee, a tree-lined promenade project in Paris that was finished in 1993, served as an inspiration for the creation of the High Line.

“Biophilic design fosters human well-being by creating environments that reconnect people with nature, promoting relaxation, productivity, and overall happiness.” – Sarah Johnson, Biophilic Design Consultant.


Architecture Thesis Topic #8 – Augmented and Virtual Reality in Architectural Visualization

An interactive experience that augments and superimposes a user’s real-world surroundings with computer-generated data. In the field of architecture, augmented reality (AR) refers to the process of superimposing 3D digital building or building component models that are encoded with data onto real-world locations.

Green buildings header

Architecture Thesis Topic #9 – Sustainable Skyscrapers

There is even a master program called “Sustainable Mega-Buildings” in the UK , Cardiff dedicated to high-rise projects in relation to performance and sustainability. Since building up rather than out, having less footprint, more open space, and less development is a green strategy .

“Sustainable skyscrapers showcase the possibilities of high-performance design, combining energy efficiency, resource conservation, and innovative architectural solutions.” – David Lee, Sustainable Skyscraper Architect.

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Architecture Thesis Topic #10 – Circular Economy in Construction

Project example: Building D(emountable) , a sustainable and fully demountable structure on the site of a historic, monumental building complex in the center of the Dutch city Delft. Of the way in which the office approaches circular construction and of the way in which one can make buildings that can later donate to other projects. Or even be reused elsewhere in their entirety.

“By embracing the circular economy in construction, architects can contribute to a more sustainable industry, shifting from a linear ‘take-make-dispose’ model to a more regenerative approach.” – Emily Thompson, Sustainable Construction Specialist.


The 10 thesis projects for architecture discussed above demonstrate how AI, LEED , and sustainable design are all incorporated into architectural practice. Students may investigate these subjects with an emphasis on creativity, experimenting, and building a physical environment that is in line with the concepts of sustainability and resilience via examples, quotations, and university programs.


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Thesis Presentation Board - 1

Sangaath Housing - M. Arch Thesis Project

Presenting "Sangaath Housing" - The name means a community which grows together. A community where contemporary design meets ancient vernacular architecture. 

Due to recent economic growth and political policies, Ahmedabad is expanding at exponential rate. The growth is enourmous, but new developments in the city are lacking the supporting infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, recreational parks etc. This thesis aims to develop a mixed-use gated community where the vernacular architecture of Ahmedabad is preserved and principles of sustainability are applied. This project can be used as module to create micro neighborhoods in the city for sustainable growth.

Status: Built Location: Ahmedabad, India My Role: Thesis Student

Thesis Presentation Board - 2

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15 Architecture Thesis Topics for Urban Architecture

thesis housing project

Urban Architecture has consistently been a trending architecture thesis topic among the students. And before we go deep into the variety of topics that can be used we must understand what exactly is Urban Architecture?

One could say urban architecture refers to any building type that establishes an appreciable relationship with its surrounding context, the built environment , and the community itself. It comprises buildings that are mostly located in urban areas, are accessible, and are meant to serve the public at large. Its purpose hence would be to make society better. Indeed, people are indeed strongly affected by building forms and facades. According to research, the main cause of ‘social stress’ in urban environments is often the absence of social bonding and interconnection in city landscapes . Design that stimulates social and urban cohesion is hence, very important for good community living. This is where urban architecture comes in; a holistic approach to the subject may result in projects like iconic skyscrapers or even residential developments . However, the focus revolves around enhancing the experience of people who are connected to the architecture.

When choosing to do a architecture thesis project on the subject of urban architecture, one needs to understand the platitude of areas and scopes encompassed by the field. There are indeed endless possibilities and avenues to explore that intend to serve the interests of the public, and also make community life better.

Before you delve into the list of topics of urban architecture to choose from, make that:

  • You understand the subject thoroughly. Choose a topic relevantly and appealing to your interests, especially prospects, masters, or a job.
  • You discuss it with your thesis advisor so that he can comprehend your intent and help you through the course of the project .
  • The topic does not necessarily have to be unique. It also should not be something that has been tried and tested far too many is because your work is what would represent you. Make sure, it speaks of who you are and what you want to do.

Here are a few options for viable architecture thesis topics that you could choose to look at.

1. Low-cost housing | Architecture Thesis

As more and more people are moving to dense urban cities like New York , in search of a better quality of living and opportunities, the city population is on the rise. As is the cost of living, making low-cost housing a dire need of societies, as low-income residents have limited choices for affordable living. When affordable housing complexes were being constructed ever since the mid-20 th century, these projects were often seen as monumental solutions to provide economical living spaces to large groups of people. Hence, even with the best of intentions of the designers, the imposing towers often turned out to be negligent of human scale, and were often more inhospitable and discouraging for communities, leaving them feeling more isolated and unwelcome.

However, a rising interest in the area since recent years has seen a rise in alternative solutions to the outdated models. Low-cost, affordable housing is not seen as merely buildings creating decent spaces for living, but also using sustainable building features to reduce costs, maintenance and to help improve the quality of life and belongingness for residents, allowing them to feel more connected to not just the resources, but also to communities and the spaces outside.

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2. Art and Heritage museum

To design a building that is important not only for the preservation of the history of the community but to also integrate members of the community and to what they share. This topic uses a method that looks at the study not only qualitatively, but also based on a theoretical foundation, with the acute understanding that comes from familiarizing oneself with concepts and standards of museums, exhibition spaces, contextualism, and exhibit care and preservation.

The project should not only focus on respecting the importance of the historical context, but also ensure that it avoids the damage of pieces of its past. It should shed light on the concept of the museum itself, the types of functions and activities it would encourage, the form and physicality of the building, and the interconnectivity between different elements of the museum . The journey of a user and the enriching experience that the museum provides, concerning its displays but to communal spaces of social interaction and discussion should also be of high value when taking this topic.

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3. Airport of Urban Architecture Thesis

Many countries in the world, including the USA, are suffering from outdated aviation infrastructure, with most airports being more than 40 years old, and a lot of money being spent on the revamp, expansion or construction to meet the challenging new needs of today. Design-wise, architects need to not only provide solutions for the necessary functioning and program of the airport , but also to enhance the experience of travel for the visitors, which includes interesting features for wayfinding, atriums for nature incorporation and natural light, state-of-the-art visual elements, and huge spaces for sightseeing and rest, as well cultural experiences which encapsulate the context of the airport, gardens, and desert landscapes. The project area also has a lot of potential for experimentation with physical form and modelmaking, which could induce a sense of awe for the public at large.

The functional aspects, of course, include catering to huge parking spaces, checking and security posts, luggage management areas, lobby areas, airport maintenance spaces, airplane ramps, and cargos, and many others, as well as allowing for the potential for future expansion. Thus, airports not only present an interesting challenge for a thesis topic but are also one that provides extensive avenues to understand the flexibility of a space which is in fact the cardinal space a visitor comes into contact with when entering a new city or a country. Hence, holding great social importance. The change seen in recent airport designs does indeed seem like a promising area to work in.

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4. Cinema and theatre architecture

Cinemas and theatres are interesting places, where the anticipation to experience is just as important as the actual film or performance itself. This is why the design and nature of the building hold such great importance.  It should in some way, either reflect the magnitude of the experience that it would showcase, or subdue itself against the marvel of the performance . Either way, it should be taken as a work of art, as architectural icons as done so in the past, which communicate the spirit of the times through the design.

The building requires a careful understanding of the program; it features their relationships with one another, the type of circulation from one space to another, and the allowance of gathering spaces with technical ones as well. The seating arrangement, sound buffering, technical knowledge must be handled as meticulously as possible, as close attention to the sound, visuals, and theatrics are what greatly enhance the experience of the performance. This is why this is also a very fascinating topic, for a building that integrates different groups of society and brings them together to experience a shared feature.

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5. Skyscraper design | Architecture Thesis

Living in a time when the competition to rise, to go higher, and to reach greater heights resonates with the fact that there is an ever-increasing desire to build very tall buildings. By definition, a skyscraper is a building that exceeds 330 feet in height. Yet the contemporary approach is not only to reach unattainable heights in construction, but it is also to rejuvenate thinking abilities, and present inventions with cutting-edge designs, that also meet the function of the building with elegance and pride. From encompassing different architectural movements like art deco and modernism, skyscraper designs also look at the intensive technical understanding of how high-rise work, the relationship of functionality between different floors, structural knowledge, and the municipalities that come with handling such delicate tasks.

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6. Suburban housing community

Suburban homes provide an avenue to understand a huge sector of society without directly destroying existing structures. They should be able to cater to the needs of the ever-changing dynamic of the public, to provide a potential for future expansion, and to provide an environment of ownership that allows for a comforting feeling of belongingness that leads to greater social integration.

The nature of the task often involves dealing with multiple stakeholders that are directly associated with such regions, including developers and the municipal government. Therefore, this subject involves a meticulous understanding of the way rules and regulations work, sizing, areas and appropriate zoning, transportation, and also a critical comprehension of the associated infrastructure required to cater to the needs of residential living, and of course, the quality of life.

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7. Marine park design of Urban Architecture

Projects paying attention to marine life can help bring new life into waterfront areas and can also provide a point of interest for the entire region itself. There exists in our society an absence of awareness regarding marine ecosystems, especially informal sectors, which has resulted in a lack of opportunities, care, and resources available for marine life. Thus, a thesis project on this topic would not be addressing the administrative concerns related to marine life, but could also cater to providing a recreational public space , where visitors can appreciate and interact with marine life along with exhibition spaces intended to create awareness for the general public.

Whilst taking the project a step ahead, a proper research institute could also be designed to further the knowledge available of the oceans and the organisms that inhabit them. These institutes with research facilities and equipment could provide areas for analysis, experimentation, and research for discovery. Thus, this project would not only help educate the public at large, but help generate revenue as a popular tourist attraction, and plant seeds for much-needed research of marine life.

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8. Convention center of Urban Architecture

A convention center is a public building of urban architecture meant to convey ideas and knowledge. It is also perceived to be more like the expansion of a town hall, where people having shared interests, goals, though, religion, or professions, could gather to interact, communicate, learn, and make decisions regarding the public realm. Hence, it is a space that caters to large groups of people, providing them with communal spaces that encourage different uses as well as appropriate exhibition spaces. 

Furthermore, since a convention center is meant to act as a medium for discourse, the first thing to consider is to develop a concept that would intend to attract people. It should have easy accessibility, be welcoming and fascinating and its spaces should be able to provide the necessary means for it to function efficiently and effectively. 

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9. Library of Urban Architecture Thesis

In the modern age of digitalization, the internet and technology have greatly transformed the manner in which we consume information. With this rapidly changing paradigm, the traditional function of a library is put on a pedestal and called to question. While it is true that the physical collection of books in a certain environment as compared to quick access to data using the internet does question the sustainability of a public library and the resources it offers, we must also keep in mind that a library also functions as a flexible space, that can be transformed to an active social space, agent for interaction and societal growth.

It must not only be considered to be a space that allows access to information, but also an environment that encourages discourse, communication, and exchange of meaningful ideas between people from different ages and social groups. With this in mind, a public library must be considered as one of the most democratic building types available, and one that has huge potential to add value to community development, growth, resource, and service. Therefore, with the sensitivity that comes with designing a library comes great responsibility, and this must be looked at as an area with the potential to be explored as a vital public asset.

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10. School of art and design

Projects that are practical solutions to community needs also have greater impacts on communities socially as well as economically. A thesis of urban architecture at a School for Art and Design could immensely help in this regard. It would only provide a platform for artists, architects, students, and citizens from various fields and social groups to gather and interact, share ideas and learn through conventional as well as modern ways and activities. This center would also enable these artists to share and exhibit their work and experiences through exhibition spaces, seminars, events, and conferences with members of their own community and the wider world through event halls, conference rooms, and libraries for research and learning.

With a learning institute as part of the program, the center would also allow aspiring artists to develop skills through formal training as well as informal activities. Thus, this institute would help create inclusivity in society but integrating different groups of people with a shared interest throughout the day and hence, year. It would also act as a viable magnet for social interaction between professionals, beneficial for the community and the campus. This, in turn, would enhance and regenerate the urban fabric, add depth to the context of the city and help drive the society forward in a positive direction. A thesis conducted on this topic, therefore, would allow you to look at art as a potential field to a group and bring communities together to appreciate the marvel that is an art and its ability to create change in the contemporary world.

15 thesis topics for urban architecture - Sheet10

11. Bus terminal cum commercial complex

Transit facilities are indeed one of the most important and vital functions of a city itself. They constitute some of the most important goals of the city and its government by inviting a large number of people to the city, merges different groups of crows, and bring in opportunities of work and living for the masses, thus building the scope of urban architecture. Therefore, smooth and better transit provides ground for future development and helps the urban fabric to grow incredibly. Transit not only improves the urban squares and nodes, and provides a push to less developed areas to allow them to be at par with the rest of the city.

Understanding the scope of development associated with a bus terminal with a commercial complex attached as an additional function thus presents itself as an interesting topic to pursue. It would not only group different travelers with one another but also with the locals, allowing them to appreciate and value local culture and tradition, as well as activities that integrate the urban living community.

15 thesis topics for urban architecture - Sheet11

12. Sports stadium of Urban Architecture

A stadium is one of the building typologies that have the power to shape the city or town it is located in. it not only helps put the city on the maps but also establishes an identity for the community and provides a tourist attraction and a focal point in its landscape. It is thus, a huge actor of theatrics that represents the output of a sport, and has a significant role for the city with regards to politics, geography, as well as socio-economics.

Thus, a sports stadium should not be looked at as a revenue-generating machine, but a building type that should be sustainable, iconic in design, with strong structural understanding for it to be considered a marvel in civic urban architecture. It requires a comprehensive understanding of various issues related to planning and design, which also cater to increased interaction and ease of access to its activities, and the environment is contained and encouraged.


13. Resort design | Architecture Thesis

A resort is a place that caters to accommodation, leisure, and recreation. It provides for a variety of activities and luxury in scenic areas and is able to house different groups of people together. Some facilities provided include rooms or huts, swimming pools , sports grounds, gyms, fine dining areas, halls for events, and many others.

Resort tourism is an area that is rapidly gaining popularity. It has a lot of municipalities involved that are often delicate in nature so as to provide high levels of comfort for its users. Therefore, it often talks about large scales, an attractive form that is meant to attract the general public, and advanced equipment and management strategies. It is indeed an interesting topic to consider when one wants to work on an area that not only deals with program efficiency but also the psychological impacts of effective design strategies. 


14. Religious buildings

An architecture thesis of urban architecture on religious buildings is a fascinating area to work on. It provides an avenue to create places with identity and an environment that awakens the senses and the emotions, enhances the experience, and provides a platform for spiritual practice. It should be kept in mind that the metaphysical concerns and experiences can largely be enhanced using effective space strategies that will come with a keen understanding of spatial and urban architecture.

Thus, space aims to heighten the experience of religion and spirituality and tends to cater to the tangible and intangible aspects of architecture, that involve senses. It is, therefore, a great challenge for architects to design spaces for religious activities, but also one that provides that greater amount of emotional appraisal. The modern religious building not only functions as only a religious center but also provides opportunities for people to come together and engage in communal activities. This is another aspect that architects need to consider when designing religious centers for contemporary times.


15. Educational Institute for rural children

With the understanding that urban architecture paves the way for enhancing the educational process with effective plan strategies and expression of detail, the topic provides an opportunity to explore this area with the development of an educational institute for rural children. This would not only emphasize the importance of education for all sectors of society but would allow meaningful involvement of the community for development projects meant to improve the quality of life for the rural sectors.

The planning involved would recognize the basic functions needed to run a school, especially in a rural setting with a standard of quality education kept in mind. There is an urgent need for developers to look at this area in society, as existing schools do not meet the typical standard, which in turn affects the educational lives of its students, making them unable to perform effectively to become important assets for their society. Thus, this topic for social responsibility helps to integrate schools and the community, with the building serving as a reflection of ideas of both its place and time through its design, concept, and function.


An Architect by profession, a writer, artist, and baker by interest, Amna Pervaiz sees Architecture and Urban Planning as a multifaceted avenue allowing her to explore a plethora of disciplinary elements. She sees the field as an untapped canvas; a journey she hopes would one day lead her towards social responsibility and welfare.

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Mazlin Ghazali

IJSTE - International Journal of Science Technology and Engineering

Adequate shelter for all people is one of the crucial challenges faced by the developing countries like India. In India by 2013, shortage of 30 million homes with almost 99% of the shortfall coming from families earning less than 2 lakhs rupees per year (EWS & LIG segment). According to census 2011 India has 65 million of slum population and by 2017 it will outreach 104 million. The country had a population of 1210.98 million, out of which 377.10(31.16%) lives in urban areas. This growing concentration of people in urban areas has led to problems of land shortage, housing shortfall and has also several basic amenities such as water, power and open spaces of towns and cities. Urbanization has resulted in people increasingly living in slums and squatter settlements and has deteriorated the housing conditions of the economically weaker section of society. This is primarily due to skyrocketing prices of land and real estate in urban areas that have forced the poor and economically weaker section of the society to occupy the marginal lands typified by poor housing stock, congestion and obsolescence. Considering these factors there currently exists a wide gap between the demand and supply of housing (both in terms of quantity and quality) in urban areas. Hence, it has become a necessity for developing country like India to adopt cost effective, innovative housing for the construction of houses for enabling the people to construct houses at affordable cost. Our project aims to reduce the cost of building by replacing ordinary material with latest one and suggest new methodology which will reduce cost as well as do not affect the strength of the structure.

Fauzia H Qureshi

ahmad hariza , Sunusi Bashari

sawsan rasheed

A housing problem of the problems facing the countries, especially the developing countries. It is essential to provide housing units at the level commensurate with the rapid population growth. Many countries have applied structural policies to confront this problem by relying on the available material and human resources to provide as many housing units to occupy by those who do not have good housing for shelter. This research targeted the field of affordable housing units in general and the impact of use Structural innovative system in particular, and the impact of the implementation of the new system on the cost and Duration of time needed to accomplish. In order to reach the aim of the research was take advantage of previous research and studies in the field of implementation of housing units by insulated concrete forms technique shorten to (ICF) technique and adopt this technique for the implementation of residential complexes. The research reached to propose a new technique for the construction of housing units by the construction of a typical residential house at the headquarters of the General Authority for Housing using the proposed technique. An economic comparison was conducted between the proposed system for construction and traditional commonly used building systems of massive wall system and frame wall system. It has been found that the proposed system is better than commonly used alternatives to an economic life of 33 years,

Dr. Kalpana Gopalan IAS

Affordable Housing is fast taking centre stage in the national agenda. In India, affordable housing is a term largely used in the urban context. This is more a matter of administrative logistics: at the national level, the rural housing sector falls within the purview of the Ministry of Rural Development, while the “Housing and Human Settlements” in urban areas is the jurisdiction of The Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation. It is the latter ministry that has spearheaded affordable housing as a concept and policy.Developing affordable housing on a large scale is the greatest challenge in urban India today, promising a solution to the proliferation of slums, unorganized real estate development, unplanned growth and transit congestion. It is vital that certain critical issues are addressed urgently to make affordable housing a possibility. Affordable housing is a larger concept than low cost housing, it includes within its ambit low and middle income group housing with a larger basic amenities like schools and hospitals. From the above, it is clear that a one size fits all approach cannot and will not work in the affordable housing sector.

Barbara Calvi

Chapter two, besides giving a general outline of the investigated case studies, provides further details on the assessment grid that has been created and that involves all subjects while at the same time summarizes the themes that have emerged from the analysis of affordable housing projects and the traditional forms found in them. Besides offering a much clearer picture of the population sections that are interested by this research, we look at the different kinds of design approaches and address the gestures of dwelling (resting, socializing, feeding and taking care of our physical needs, ...) as well as of equipment and fittings together with the shape of domestic space and its relationship with the context. This first preliminary review has reviewed the collected materials without operating a restrictive geographic selection, apart from choosing projects belonging to a developing country or to a severely underdeveloped area. Wherever possible, transformations operated in the name of tradition have been highlighted both in the case that they are recalling tradition or that they are rejecting it.

rhythm cool

In Dhaka significantly the numbers of slums are increasing everyday due to heavy influx of migrants from rural areas. In these slum areas all sorts of services are inadequate and general environmental scenario is hazardous. Data has been collected from field survey, some secondary sources and focused group discussion. The study focuses on the status and practice regarding water, sanitation and hygiene. This paper has also explored that assessment of water resource availability and quality at source point of consumption; problems faced in getting safe drinking water; and knowledge of the features of hygienic latrine; awareness about health. The study is based on the health problems highlighting factors affecting the health of the population in slums for example due to general environmental condition, water supply system and the sanitation system. The study also focuses on other various reasons associated to poor living condition and their impact on health of the slum population. It is suggested that if conditions are to be improved then the problem of the poor living conditions and the health service needs to be addressed through the application of proper measures and planning by the different sectors of government and private sectors. Including all these problems Dhaka city is should slum housing problem immediately. A shelter can be solution of all problems. As they need permanent solution .i choose housing for shelter and container made house for housing solution. My motivation is to providing cheaper housing solution for devoted and migrated rural people in hearts of urban.

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Engaging neighbors: housing strategies and political mobilization in moscow's renovation.

Anna Zhelnina , The Graduate Center, City University of New York Follow

Date of Degree

Document type.


Degree Name

James M. Jasper

Committee Members

Sharon Zukin

Philip Kasinitz

Jan Willem Duyvendak

Subject Categories

Civic and Community Engagement | Politics and Social Change | Urban Studies and Planning

housing strategies, strategic interaction, urban politics, urban renewal, Moscow

In summer 2017, residents of thousands of socialist-era apartment buildings in Moscow were invited to vote and decide whether their building should be included in the demolition and relocation program proposed by the Mayor’s Office. Renovation is an ongoing urban renewal plan, first announced in Moscow in February 2017, to demolish whole neighborhoods of socialist-era, five-story buildings and replace them with high-rises. The vast project affected more than 5,000 buildings with approximately a million inhabitants.

This dissertation addresses general questions of political agency and the possibility for diverse people in urban neighborhoods to produce change: to achieve desired policy outcomes, transform the rules of political interactions and the configuration of players in the urban political field. Inevitably, the interests, aspirations, and strategies of these people differ. In this thesis, I explore how these different aspirations and different life experiences clash, overlap, and develop into collective strategies, which can transform the relationships of the urban political field. To connect the experiences of Moscow residents facing urban renewal with the longstanding sociological debates, I synthesize theories of agency and strategy, theories of strategic interaction in social movement research, and urban scholarship on citizenship.

Housing is a fundamental human goal, and ways of achieving and keeping a proper home shape a person’s housing strategy . Renovation soon turned into a housing struggle. The reason it sparked a high degree of mobilization in a relatively politically apathetic society is the thing it targeted: housing is literally the issue closest to home, able to provoke even politically indifferent people to act. I seek to demonstrate that political action partly grows out of individual strategies, motivations, aspirations, and feelings. These personal strategies, too, result in turn from earlier social and cultural processes.

Renovation pulled Muscovites into the urban political field , a configuration of interactive arenas where decisions about the city in general and its specific parts can be negotiated. Setting foot in one arena could also motivate citizens to further explore the outlines of the field, and engage in interactions in further linked arenas, such as municipal elections. Previously, not many Muscovites had used or even known about the different arenas of urban and local politics, but the shock of potentially losing their home in Renovation exposed those structures to more citizens than ever before. People learned and tried out individual arenas, learned about the connections between different political arenas, and created new arenas, for example, homeowners’ assemblies or meetings of the new activist communities.

Recommended Citation

Zhelnina, Anna, "Engaging Neighbors: Housing Strategies and Political Mobilization in Moscow's Renovation" (2020). CUNY Academic Works.

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Housing and Revolution: From the Dom-Kommuna to the Transitional Type of Experimental House (1926–30)

In the USSR, against the backdrop of political change and social instability in the 1920s, the issue of housing for the masses was addressed by the Association of Contemporary Architects (OSA), under the leadership of Moisey Ginzburg. Their mission was not only to provide a solution to the lack of accommodation in the major cities of the country, but to redefine housing as a framework suited to a society transitioning towards a fully socialised life. The response was developed in three stages of design research, over a period of five years. The initial conceptual phase was formally presented by members of the OSA at the 1926 Comradely Competition, and focused on the housing question, with specific designs for communal houses. The second stage revolved around the scientific and methodological research of the Stroykom, developed in parallel with the designs for the new communal living units. The final stage took material form in six specific buildings, known as transitional-type experimental houses. One of these, the Narkomfin, gained worldwide recognition as a modern prototype of Soviet avant-garde housing, and has been widely researched as a result. However, to date no study has approached all three phases with equal scrutiny and methodology. This article offers a detailed account of the OSA’s experimental design strategies for collective workers’ housing between 1926 and 1930 under Ginzburg’s leadership by examining original sources, as well as analysing and restoring the individual projects at each stage. It provides a new interpretation of the famous Narkomfin House and ideas on the first Soviet avant-garde housing project by reconstructing the complex research context in which the building, in tandem with other projects, was developed.

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In 1926, the leading theorists of the Association of Contemporary Architects (OSA) announced a ‘Comradely Competition for Preliminary Design of Housing for Workers’. The competition brief, published in the third issue of the association’s journal Sovremennaya Arkhitektura (SA) , called for the development of new residential typologies. The stated goal was not merely to resolve the shortage of workers’ housing in the Soviet Union, but, most important, to facilitate ‘new relations falling under the notion of community’ ( Ginzburg et al. 1926a ; translation by the author). There had, of course, been earlier efforts to address the pressing housing question. But the Comradely Competition was the first to systematically develop innovative solutions at both the scale of the individual living unit and the residential building scale in a deliberate attempt to assist women’s emancipation. Its intent was to redefine not only the nature of the ‘socialist family’, but also the relationship between individual and collective, more broadly.

Only a few of the avant-garde projects that sought to address the migration of rural populations to the rapidly expanding cities during the years of the New Economic Policy (1921–28) were actually implemented. 1 Lacking both the economic and technical means for new construction in the immediate aftermath of World War I and the revolution in 1918, workers and their families were initially re-housed in existing dwellings that, until then, had been single-family bourgeois homes. 2 However, this measure of turning private into communal apartments — a result of the nationalisation of land and the abolition of property — could at best provide a temporary fix to workers’ precarious living conditions in cities like Moscow or Saint Petersburg, where industrial enterprises were typically concentrated. 3

During the first half of the 1920s, Soviet planners and architects began to develop new habitat models. The earliest of these models featured low-density single-family homes built close to the new factories and industrial enterprises. An example of this type of settlement is the Sokol cooperative on the industrial outskirts of Moscow, designed by Nikolay Markovnikov in 1923 ( Khan-Magomedov 1987: 345 ). As the decade went on, the more economical solution of multi-family blocks proliferated and soon became the norm for newly built workers’ housing. Aleksandr Gegello, Aleksandr Nikol’skiy and Grigoriy Simonov’s three- and four-storey buildings on Traktorskaya Ulitsa in Leningrad, built between 1925 and 1927, are prime examples of this second approach (1987: 275–76).

While these first two models are rather conventional, the third habitat model, developed by Soviet avant-garde theoreticians and architects, entailed experimental projects for communal housing, called domma-kommuny (singular: dom-kommuna ). It is with the domma-kommuny that this article’s research into experimental design strategies for collective workers’ housing really begins. By introducing a range of additional programmes into these dwellings, the avant-garde’s intention was to transform workers’ consciousness and induce collective behavioural patterns — a process of socialisation of daily life ( byt ) 4 deemed consistent with the objectives of socialist politics.

A series of architectural competitions initiated by local authorities — those by the Soviet of the City of Moscow (Mossovet) in particular — tried to stimulate the development of these communal housing types. For example, a 1922 competition for the design of two exemplary workers’ housing schemes in Moscow asked for the provision of social infrastructures such as clubs, kindergartens and playgrounds, communal kitchens and dining rooms, washrooms and showers, laundries, doctors’ surgeries, garages and storage facilities ( Bliznakov 1993: 93 ). And in 1925, for the first time a competition brief for communal housing explicitly stated as its goal the liberation of women through the promotion of communal amenities and the encouragement of new and improved relationships among family members and residents ( Kopp 1970: 145 ).

Few proposals were submitted to this 1925 Mossovet competition, and none came from members of the OSA. However, it helped fuel the debate among architects on communal forms of housing for workers, prompting reconsideration of hierarchies of class and gender. Just one year later, the young group of Constructivists, who openly opposed political interference in design work ( Hudson 1986: 559–560 ), began their own research on the issue of workers’ housing. Led by Moisey Ginzburg, the OSA architects embarked on a five-year investigation of experimental housing models, taking technical progress, economic constraints and the Soviet leadership’s goal to establish new social relationships as their point of departure.

Drawing from a wide range of primary sources from archives and personal collections in Moscow, Rotterdam, Cambridge, Dessau, New York and New Jersey, the present article offers an account of the OSA’s experimental design strategies for collective workers’ housing under Ginzburg’s leadership between 1926 and 1930. It argues that, during this period, the design process consisted of three key stages – conceptual, scientific and empirical. The essay seeks to diachronically map out the different views held by the architects in Ginzburg’s team when designing, evaluating, and executing their proposals. Developed in various competition entries, their architectural solutions are represented here in plans, sections and axonometric views that were redrawn by the author using the same scale and graphic standards. These restitutions, collated from original plans, drawings, planning and construction documents, building permits and official bulletins, allow systematic analysis and comparison between the range of proposals while also highlighting continuities in spatial arrangements throughout the three stages of the design process. Revisiting theoretical debates among the authors in relation to their designs, the article builds on and expands previous studies on the Narkomfin Communal House ( Buchli 1998 , 1999 ; Cramer and Zalivako 2013 ; Pasini 1980 ; Udovički-Selb 2016 ). At the same time, and more importantly, it offers new insights into the collective genesis of Ginzburg’s theories concerning standardisation and typification in residential design.

First Stage, Conceptual Approach: The 1926 Comradely Competition

The OSA brigade’s initial attempts to define the dom-kommuna emphasised quick and easy construction in an effort to provide inexpensive housing for individual working-class families. One of the main goals of the Comradely Competition, launched in 1926 among OSA members in their journal Sovremennaya Arkhitektura , was ‘the creation of a house-organism to facilitate novel productive and domestic relations between workers, leading to the notion of community.’ 5 The design proposals were not only to strike a balance between social and economic requirements. They were also expected to lay the groundwork for optimally meeting housing needs. To establish the programme and its basic parameters for the design brief, two surveys, one assessing workers’ demands and the other collecting recommendations from construction experts in the USSR, were published in the following issue ( Ginzburg et al. 1926b: 109 ).

Aimed at ordinary citizens, the first of these surveys included six questions about the conditions for a transition to the new byt , as well as about any past petit bourgeois residue that ought to be rejected. The second survey, geared towards specialists, focused on building technologies and raised questions about construction materials and methods, occupation, the advisable number of floors, minimum space standards and other building requirements. Only five responses were published in the journal ( Otvety na anketu SA 1927 ). Four of them addressed the problem of byt reform from different perspectives: defending art as the main driving force in the transition to a new way of life, denouncing newly built apartments that reproduced earlier bourgeois ones, and indicating the functional and spatial necessities of these new dwellings. Despite occasional differences in tone and opinion, a number of common requests were formulated in response to the questions, including, most importantly, requests for collective forms of childcare and education, for the separation of public and private domestic spheres and for the liberation of women from domestic oppression. Only one of the five published responses focused on technical aspects. Its author, a factory worker from Donbas, envisioning the extensive use of reinforced concrete structures, recommended the construction of walls equipped with closets and folding beds, and suggested the installation of lightweight sliding walls to achieve greater flexibility in the use and inhabitation of rooms.

On the basis of the five responses, eight proposals were presented by OSA members Moisey Ginzburg, Gregoriy Vegman, Vyacheslav Vladimirov, Andrey Ol’, Nina Vorotyntseva and Raisa Polyak, Aleksandr Nikol’skiy, Aleksandr Pasternak and Ivan Sobolev (Figure 1 ). These designs — in a clear nod to the West — generally followed a modern architectural language that favoured free space over enclosures. 6 Despite their shared aesthetic, the schemes varied greatly in terms of their scale of intervention due to the freedom granted by the design brief. In fact, there were relatively few similarities, for instance, between the proposals of Vegman and Sobolev, whose dom-kommuna resembled an entire neighbourhood, and of Pasternak and Nikol’skiy, who designed a single building. All proposals included at least one private kitchen and toilet in each unit to allow some degree of privacy for individual households. In line with the responses to the survey, communalisation was introduced with considerable caution to maintain a balance and differentiate between the domestic and the communal spheres of the domma-kommuny . 7 The only entry to include communal sleeping areas was that by Vorotyntseva and Polyak, although the restraint shown in their design suggests their recognition of a need for privacy.

Figure 1

Axonometric views of the eight proposals submitted to the 1926 Comradely Competition: Ginzburg (1), Vegman (2), Vladimirov (3), Ol’ (4), Vorotyntseva and Polyak (5), Nikol’skiy (6), Pasternak (7) and Sobolev (8). Graphics by Daniel Movilla Vega.

All entries gave special attention to the circulation systems (Figure 2 ). The designs by Vegman, Vladimirov and Nikol’skiy featured modest-sized stairwells, while those by Ginzburg, Ol’, Sobolev, and Vorotyntseva and Polyak used corridors. Only Vorotyntseva and Polyak put forward a proposal with an open gallery, alternating its position within the block from one side to the other. It is also worth noting Ginzburg’s careful treatment of the corridor, which defined areas for entrance and exit, rest and storage, and allowed light to enter the building through windows high up in the wall (Figure 3 ). Finally, the entry by Pasternak combined horizontal and vertical systems of circulation, including a corridor on the second level giving access to all the stairwells in the block.

Figure 2

Axonometric views of the cluster system and floor plans of the eight proposals submitted to the 1926 Comradely Competition: Ginzburg (1), Vegman (2), Vladimirov (3), Ol’ (4), Vorotyntseva and Polyak (5), Nikol’skiy (6), Pasternak (7) and Sobolev (8). Graphics by Daniel Movilla Vega.

Figure 3

‘Communal house A 1’, Ginzburg’s entry for the 1926 Comradely Competition. From Sovremennaya Arkhitektura 4–5, 1927 .

Despite the competition’s rather vague specifications, seven of the eight proposals featured elements for communal use. 8 Communal kitchens and dining rooms, libraries and reading rooms, workshops, washrooms, crèches and kindergartens were generally included in the programme to relieve women of the burden of domestic work and childcare, and to grant residents access to culture and leisure. These collective facilities were presented as a social service infrastructure for the residents, a restricted public sphere that would expand and enrich their individual domestic sphere.

Even though all participants grouped the different communal areas in different ways, three principal strategies for clustering these spaces can be observed. While both Vladimirov’s and Pasternak’s proposals accommodated communal facilities on the lower floor of the residential building, Ginzburg and Vegman separated them, setting up rooms for dining, leisure, education and services on the upper floor, while spaces devoted to children were located on the lower floor. This ground floor location for nurseries and kindergartens meant that space was no longer taken up by hallways, as children could be dropped off and picked up by parents directly on their way to and from work. Lastly, Ol’, Sobolev, and Vorotyntseva and Polyak proposed separate buildings for communal uses. Ginzburg, Vegman and Sobolev also added raised passages to connect the communal wings and residential blocks. This allowed access to all areas without leaving the building. From outside, these elevated footbridges made the dom-kommuna appear as a closed, autonomous circuit, reminiscent of Konstantin Melnikov’s earlier proposal for workers’ dwellings in Serpukhovskaya Ulitsa ( Starr 1978: 45–52 ).

The architects endeavoured to use complex spatial arrangements to minimize the floor area of the residential cells (Figure 2 ). Vegman’s design made up for the increase in volume in the residential rooms by reducing the size of the service rooms, arranged symmetrically on each floor. Vladimirov’s dwellings, linked in pairs along three Cartesian axes, provided independent rooms without resorting to internal partitions. Other participants, including Ol’ and Sobolev, presented a two-tiered housing design around a central corridor, found later in Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation. Ginzburg’s residential cells, distributed along two floors linked by staircases, were organised into three modules, two of which were accessed through an internal corridor, allowing for variations in these units to suit residents’ individual requirements.

All eight proposals were published in Sovremennaya Arkhitektura , introduced by a five-page assessment by Aleksandr Pasternak ( Pasternak 1927 ). To construe the proposals as both the status quo in residential design and a baseline for further exploration, Pasternak’s article deliberately highlighted common features of the architects’ schemes, instead of paying attention to their differences. The housing projects were exhibited in the first international architecture exhibition by the Constructivist architects at Vkhutemas in 1927, where they occupied an entire room. The extensive publicity given to the proposals in both the journal and at Moscow’s prestigious School of Architecture had one central aim: to cement their authors’ status as the most qualified designers of habitat models for the transition to socialism.

Second Stage, Scientific Approach: The Standardisation Department at Stroykom RSFSR

The widespread promotion of the OSA architects’ work in the Comradely Competition alerted the planning and construction authorities of the USSR to the need to explore further possibilities for housing. As a result, in 1928, the Standardisation Department at Stroykom RSFSR, an official section for the development of typified and standardised housing, was created. 9

Among the tasks of this institution were not only the development of new dwelling types and standards, but also the technical training of construction workers, to increase their skills in dealing with new building materials and techniques ( Kazus 2009: 292–93 ). From its earliest beginnings, the Stroykom expressed the need to align the purely economic aspects of the new dwellings with the guidelines set out by the government as part of the First Five Year Plan. Under government control, and following the stipulations to cut public spending for construction, the department needed to address four major objectives. The first was to meet the demand for workers’ housing in large cities, while using the country’s economic resources as efficiently as possible. This meant developing designs for new housing types that would reduce construction costs to the absolute minimum. The second objective was to improve the quality of the apartments by establishing a catalogue of basic standards of equipment for all new apartments. 10 The third was to reduce the usable floor area of small apartments, based on the estimation that three-quarters of the population in a big city needed either one- or at most two-room apartments. The idea was to match the type of dwelling to the number of inhabitants as closely as possible, to avoid the practice of allocating several families to a single apartment. The final objective was the creation of a new residential type called the transitional type: a residential building in which small individual units were complemented by shared service areas. Conceived as an intermediate step en route to more socialised living in communal houses, the transitional type was to respond to the new situation of women working outside the home, children attending kindergartens, and the rapid growth of culture, physical education and leisure ( Stroykom RSFSR 1929: 13 ).

Ginzburg coordinated and supervised the work of the Standardisation Department at Stroykom, overseeing the work of other architects such as Pasternak, Vladimirov, Grigoriy Sum-Shik and Mikhail Barshch. The fact that three of these five members had already participated in the 1926 Comradely Competition ensured continuity for the OSA’s work on the dom-kommuna . This also meant that the Stroykom’s work on standardisation, the industrialisation of building processes and the mass production of housing originated in the design of collective dwellings. Within a period of just a few months, the OSA produced and promptly disseminated several standardised cell models (Figure 4 ) ( Stroykom RSFSR 1929: 55–76 ). The aim was for these models to become standard dwelling types ready for mass production across the country in a short timeframe.

Figure 4

Cover of the album published by the Stroykom in 1929, Tipovyye proyekty i konstruktsii zhilishchnogo stroitelʹstva, rekomenduyemyye na 1930 g [Types of Projects and Standards for Housing Construction, Recommended for the year 1930].

In pursuing the mutual goal of encouraging a shift towards a new socialist way of life, both the speculative designs of the Comradely Competition and the subsequent research by the Standardisation Department took into account economic and technical realities. But there was a key difference between the two stages. While the competition operated largely outside the borders of state bureaucracy, the work of the Standardisation Department was subject to strict rules adopted by the Stroykom RSFSR on 17 February 1928. 11 Thus, scientific protocols, standards, norms and parameters came to replace the artistic freedom and creativity of earlier design explorations. Primarily, it was the need to meet economic requirements that led to an engagement with the ideas of ‘Existenzminimum’ successfully employed by Ernst May in Germany at that time. With this strategy for increasing the production of housing units by reducing apartment size, standardisation and rationalisation, the work of May’s office in Frankfurt am Main was considered an important precedent ( Bibliografiya 1929 ).

The Standardisation Department at the Stroykom RSFSR employed mathematical calculations to rate the spatial efficiency of the different proposals for housing. It established a factor to calculate the optimal ratio f outer surface dimensions to volume or different dwelling types. This factor had already been alluded to in some of the contributions to the 1926 competition. But these were little more than token explanations. Employing these algorithms meant that the spatial characteristics of different dwelling unit types could be rationally assessed and compared in tables and diagrams. The shift from more abstract ideological goals to economic, production-oriented principles established objective evaluation criteria. In turn, it also allowed the newly designed housing types to be tested through set performance indicators.

The OSA’s scientific methodology was completely novel to Soviet architectural practice and was considered exceptional even in the West ( CIAM 1997: 20 ; Garrido 2007: 371–380 ; Ginzburg 1929: 4–6 ; Kopp 1970: 130, 135 ; Mumford 2002: 44 ). Yet surprisingly, this rational method of analysis also revealed that the existing typology of converted pre-revolutionary bourgeois homes arranged around a vertical stairwell proved more efficient in relative economic terms than the minimum apartment models built during the 1920s, as a comparison between total building volumes and apartment surface area of both housing types confirmed. Because living areas had already been pared down to the bare essence in designs for minimum dwellings, the only way to further reduce the floor area was to streamline service spaces such as kitchens, bathrooms and entrance halls. To this end, Ginzburg’s team adopted the analytical methods of time and motion studies, championed by American household reformer Christine Frederick, to rationalise domestic labour, which Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky had also employed in her design of the Frankfurt Kitchen in 1926 ( Espegel and Rojas 2018 ; Frederick 1913 ; Schütte-Lihotzky 1996 ). This allowed Ginzburg and his colleagues to develop the so-called type A residential units (Figure 5 ), saving space by a further 10% compared to previous models.

Figure 5

Axonometric views of the cluster system and floor plans of types A, B, E and F, developed by the Standardisation Department at Stroykom RSFSR (1928–29). Graphics by Daniel Movilla Vega.

Subsequently, adjustments to the volume of apartments were made by dropping the height of auxiliary areas, a strategy that had already been explored in several of the proposals for the Comradely Competition. For example, the design by Vorotyntseva and Polyak experimented with interlocking auxiliary and inhabitable rooms, which became a precedent for the dwelling known as type B, achieving savings of another 10% over type A.

However, further economic analysis revealed these measures to still be insufficient. Type A and B dwellings as well as new generic layouts (C, D, E and F) each established different circulation routes and vertical connections between floors and dwellings. While types A and B were designed around a central stairwell, layouts C, D and E featured conventional stacking, with a single corridor giving access to one, two or three floors respectively. Layout F, which was more original, incorporated a corridor between every two floors, with floor slabs placed on split levels.

Each spatial configuration was evaluated in terms of its ‘economic efficiency’, as the inhabitable surface area differed between various types (Figure 6 ). Economic efficiency was identified with a k coefficient, the result of dividing the built volume of the dwelling by its usable area. The lower the coefficient, the more economically efficient the corresponding housing type. Surprisingly, this study revealed that layout A was the most advantageous for dwellings larger than 50 square metres. However, based on studies of the housing demand, this ‘family unit’ was only suitable for 40% of the population. To provide single-occupancy apartments for the remaining 60%, the only solution was to design a single-room dwelling no more expensive in relative terms than a two- or three-room dwelling.

Figure 6

Diagram of economic efficiency presented by the Standardisation Department at Stroykom RSFSR for layouts A, B, C, D, E and F. On the X-axis: inhabitable surface areas; on the Y-axis: k coefficient. From Stroykom’s album Tipovyye proyekty i konstruktsii zhilishchnogo stroitelʹstva, rekomenduyemyye na 1930 g , 1929.

Layouts C and E did meet the strict requirements in terms of economy and demand (Figure 7 ), but it was the wide range of layout F variants that best fulfilled them (Figure 8 ). Here, space was reduced along the side of the dwelling where bedroom and bathroom were located. In turn, the height gained in the lower and the upper dwellings was combined, with the resulting intermediate-level corridor providing access to the dwellings through internal stairs. This granted natural ventilation and lighting on both façades of the dwellings while establishing the corridor as a bright outdoor gallery. The overall coefficients obtained were equivalent to those of dwellings of 54 square metres, while the average height of the inhabitable areas was also greater than in conventional models.

Figure 7

Type E-1 developed by the Standardisation Department at Stroykom RSFSR (1928–29). From Stroykom’s album Tipovyye proyekty i konstruktsii zhilishchnogo stroitelʹstva, rekomenduyemyye na 1930 g , 1929.

Figure 8

Type F-1 developed by the Standardisation Department at Stroykom RSFSR (1928–29). From Stroykom’s album Tipovyye proyekty i konstruktsii zhilishchnogo stroitelʹstva, rekomenduyemyye na 1930 g , 1929.

Compared to the other dwelling types, which used more traditional layouts such as the ones featured in the 1926 Comradely Competition, type F was entirely novel. This residential unit provided the best architectural solution not only with respect to economy and quality, but also as a prototype for a habitat in transition towards the community dwelling model and thus for a way of life that was considered more socially advanced ( Udovički-Selb 2016: 65–66 ). The lighting conditions in the corridor encouraged group activities by linking residential and community spaces. In turn, this meant that the boundaries of the new dwelling extended to the communal kitchens, dining rooms and bathrooms as well as culture and leisure spaces. Individual kitchens were replaced by small stoves, encouraging the use of collective kitchens while allowing residents the possibility of warming up food or preparing small meals or tea within their own residential unit. Occupants could adjust participation in communal life or choose private family life and independence from neighbours according to their individual preference. Type F thus took into consideration Ginzburg’s distrust of an immediate shift to fully collectivised housing models. It went on to play a key role in promoting a gradual and peaceful transition towards the new byt .

Type F quickly became popular throughout the USSR ( Bliznakov 1993: 109, 113 ). Between 1928 and 1929, the Stroykom presented several theoretical proposals for housing complexes of this type, including the House for 80 to 100 dwellers. Other examples include the apartment building designed by Ginzburg and Pasternak in Sverdlovsk and the housing complex for ‘Exemplary Construction’ in Moscow, designed by Barshch, Vladimirov, Pasternak, Ignatiy Milinis, Lyubov Slavina and Sergey Orlovsky. However, without a doubt the most significant proposal was that which was most successful in developing the postulates of Ginzburg’s team — Narkomfin House.

Third Stage, Empirical Approach: The Narkomfin Transitional Type of Experimental House

The House for the Popular Commissariat of Finance, Narkomfin, was built by Ginzburg and Ignaty Milinis in collaboration with engineer Sergey Prokhorov in Moscow between 1928 and 1930. It was commissioned by the Commissar of Finance, Nikolay Milyutin, a leading Soviet theorist on urban planning ( Milyutin 1930 ) and a steadfast supporter of Ginzburg’s team and its research on housing.

The Narkomfin building was conceived as a prototype. Ginzburg himself considered it a ‘transitional type of experimental house’ ( Ginzburg 2017: 82 ) and it became the most noteworthy example of practical execution of the work of the Standardisation Department at Stroykom RSFSR. The challenge lay in housing almost 50 families, roughly 200 people of all ages, half of whom maintained their ‘old’ way of life in separate households. For Ginzburg, this challenge was an opportunity to encourage a shift to the new socialist byt .

The initial proposal included four buildings for residences, communal activities, child daycare, and laundry facilities, in addition to a second phase in which new dwellings would be built. However, only the residential, communal and laundry buildings were eventually implemented. Although the design solution of a free floor plan on pilotis for the residential block had already been considered in some of the earlier schemes submitted to the Comradely Competition, in this case it was expected to achieve more than the mere reproduction of a language attempting to resolve practical and urban conditioning factors. As the building stood on a park, almost the entire ground floor of the residential block was raised on pilotis. In this way, the dwellings were no longer negatively affected by topographical conditions, and privacy was ensured while continuity with the park through this covered space was also maintained (Figure 9 ).

Figure 9

Narkomfin House proposal developed by Ginzburg and Milinis ( 1929–30 ): ground floor and second floor, first version. From Ginzburg’s publication Zhilishche [Dwelling], 1934 .

In the initial project, only F and K types (Figure 10 ) were employed, with very specific variations to the units at the short end of the building (Figure 11 ). Type F cells — small households composed of individuals or childless couples — were in some way connected to the community economy and helped to facilitate the residents’ transition towards a fully socialised life. Type K cells were for families whose members were financially dependent on each other but who mostly wished to remain independent from the community. Type K, which had an outdoor gallery onto two floors, was actually a variant of layout D as defined by the Standardisation Department. Furthermore, it shared elements with Ginzburg’s proposal for the Comradely Competition. Thanks to the nearly 5-metre-high two-storey living room, which operated as a reservoir for air, the height of the bedrooms could be kept to just 2.30 metres (Figure 12 ). Similarly, the 3.60-metre-high inhabitable rooms in type F made it possible to incorporate 2.30 metres in the portion of the dwelling that was lower in height, allowing room for small gas cookers to heat food previously prepared in communal kitchens. However, type K was designed to promote a more gradual separation according to individuals’ financial status, incorporating kitchens where food could be cooked and not just reheated. Nevertheless, their small size, just our square metres, shows that their function may have been rather more symbolic.

Figure 10

Narkomfin House proposal developed by Ginzburg and Milinis ( 1929–30 ): floor plans for types F and K, first version. From Ginzburg’s publication Zhilishche , 1934 .

Figure 11

Narkomfin House proposal developed by Ginzburg and Milinis ( 1929–30 ): fourth, fifth and sixth floors (above), and floor plans on the end dwellings (below), first version. From Ginzburg’s publication Zhilishche , 1934 .

Figure 12

Narkomfin House proposal developed by Ginzburg and Milinis ( 1929–30 ): sections of the residential and communal buildings, first version. From Ginzburg’s publication Zhilishche , 1934 .

The upper part of the building, initially intended for installations and services such as a community room and solarium, in the final version included five dwellings of different sizes (Figure 13 ). A penthouse, designed by Milyutin for his own use, was notably similar to type K. The four other type C dwellings, with rooms between 9 and 15 square metres, saved on space thanks to the use of folding beds and shared showers and sinks. The design, in which areas with sanitary fittings were set out in a row, was not unlike that illustrated by Milyutin in his model for the socialist city, or that of the floor plan of type E as defined in the dom-kommuna designed by Barshch and Vladimirov.

Figure 13

Narkomfin House proposal developed by Ginzburg and Milinis ( 1929–30 ): axonometric view of the cluster system and floor plans of types K, F, and C, built version. Graphics by Daniel Movilla Vega.

From the perspective of social organisation and byt , this blending of types was intended to not only bring traditional and new socialist ways of living together, but also to stimulate a painless transition towards the latter with its more collective forms of housekeeping. The services in the communal building — a double-height sports hall with room for showers, changing, storage and relaxation; a two-storey-high public dining hall linked to a communal kitchen and to a reading and leisure room; and the laundry building with a mechanical laundry and drying room — were considered instrumental for the gradual and non-enforced transformation of family and household structures.

The two horizontal arteries on the second and fifth floors were crucial for interlinking the dwellings and connection hubs in different ways. In the Narkomfin building, the brilliantly designed corridor, already featured in Ginzburg’s 1926 proposal, took the form of uniformly lit galleries providing space for interaction between inhabitants. The lower corridor linked the residential and communal buildings through an elevated, enclosed and heated passageway similar to those frequently found in the 1926 proposals and adopted by the Stroykom for its House for 80 to 100 dwellers.

Ginzburg assessed the Narkomfin building and its performance in 1932, two years after its completion, in his seminal work Zhilishche ( Ginzburg 2017: 82–97 ). Although the communal kitchens were in full operation, he observed that most of the residents ate in their own dwellings. The playground took up the area originally allotted for the child daycare building, which was never built, while the mechanical laundry facilities were built and functioned as designed ( Buchli 1999: 103 ; Ginzburg 2017: 82 ). The evaluation of the Narkomfin building’s spatial articulation, colour, light and construction, which Ginzburg wrote in 1932 and published two years later, constitutes an epilogue to one of modernity’s most ambitious investigations into housing design. From the outset, Ginzburg strongly believed that the social and economic context of the USSR was not yet in desperate need of forceful change. This explains the complete absence in his work of utopian or radical proposals calling for the full imposition of communal life, the abolition of the family, and the separation of parents and children. The 37.40 square metres of usable area and 160 cubic metres of built volume of the type F units implemented in the Narkomfin building respected the living patterns of different social groups, while at the same time revealing the extraordinary potential of housing to bring about social change.

The value of the Narkomfin building lay not only in the scope of its execution as a singular object or its high quality, which indeed added to the building’s intrinsic value ( Buttchereit 2013 ; Schäfer 2013 ; Zalivako 2013 ), but also in the application of the theoretical principles that were developed in both the 1926 competition and the Stroykom RSFSR Standardisation Department. It is this continuity and fine-tuning of social, spatial and constructive principles that validates the work on housing by Ginzburg’s team over these five years as a single research process. The Narkomfin building, brought about by an unprecedented social and political situation, was praised by Le Corbusier and hailed by international critics as an architectural paradigm in the building of the new socialist society ( Cohen 1992: 122–24 ). But this recognition was of little use. Although Ginzburg’s solutions were more economically efficient and socially conciliatory than those that followed Narkomfin, the timing of its construction intersected with the fading of Lenin’s socialist dream. In 1930, the year of the building’s completion, Stalinist hostility sparked the imminent proscription of avant-garde architecture, bringing with it the building’s stigmatisation.

Epilogue to a Research Process

Of all the different attempts to establish a new residential environment for workers in the 1920s, the research led by Ginzburg in the USSR became the first and the most influential exercise in housing in which material and historical conditions were intricately connected. The interdependence between architectural principles and socio-political factors had become a fertile ground for the revolutionary ideas of Constructivist research. As a result, the OSA architects viewed the reform of the material environment as a necessary, yet insufficient, element for unleashing the transformation of traditional living standards: new forms of organisation were expected to lead to new, more complex and efficient housing models with an additional social and educational role, promoting the renewal of the economic basis of society. In accepting this principle of Marxist dialectical materialism, Ginzburg and his team were not content with merely providing a solution for the immediate needs of their time. Their work had to be an active part of the progressive evolution of society towards a more complete, perfect and integrated form of reality, embodying what Lenin termed a transitional period ( Lenin 2012: 114 ).

As the work of the OSA team began to be questioned in the USSR, the opportunities it provided for developing a new architecture for citizens based on modern premises — utterly inconceivable within the bounds of Western thought — began to attract the attention of the European avant-garde. The knowledge and learning opportunities that this Ginzburg-led research on housing afforded contemporary architects, through publications and occasional trips as well as architectural practice in Russia, opened up new avenues for design and organisation in European housing. A straight line can thus be traced from Ginzburg’s spatial investigations to major Western projects, including Hans Scharoun’s apartment block for the Werkbund exhibition Wohnung und Werkraum in Wrocław, Georges-Henri Pingusson’s l’Hôtel Latitude 43 in Saint Tropez and the lotissement à redent of Le Corbusier’s Ville Radieuse ( Cohen 2013 ).

The influence of the OSA’s body of work was not restricted to formal appearance and design. The social significance of the proposals of the Constructivists, as well as their belief in architecture as an instrument for humanising and integrating society, were also greatly influential in Western social programmes in the interwar period, acting as a counterpoint to the work promoted in Europe around the Congrès international d’architecture moderne (CIAM). By October 1929, when the 2nd CIAM on the Minimum Dwelling was taking place in Frankfurt, the research work by the Standardisation Department was already complete and the Narkomfin House was under construction. At that time, the work of Ginzburg’s team, which had put considerable effort into critically assimilating the most advanced modern residential approaches of the period, had emphasised the narrow social scope of modern housing research in the West ( Movilla Vega et al. 2018 ). Constructivism was triggering debate in Europe regarding the potential of a new residential type, the ‘social condenser’, which expanded the concept and social scope of collective housing.

Ultimately, this exchange of positions between the USSR and the West meant that the research conducted by Ginzburg’s team was brought to life in an economic, social and political context that differed greatly from the one in which it had been conceived. The new Constructivist ideas which emerged from the fertile landscape of the Russian Revolution crossed borders to become universal ideas for advancing knowledge and society as a whole.

  • The New Economic Policy’s kindling of the economy caused Moscow’s population to double between 1921 and 1926. [ ^ ]
‘How is the housing question to be settled, then? (…) There is already a sufficient quantity of houses in the big cities to remedy immediately all real ‘housing shortage’, provided they are used judiciously. This can naturally only occur through the expropriation of the present owners and by quartering in their houses homeless workers or workers overcrowded in their present houses.’ ( Engels 1970: 30–31 ).
  • Existing apartments were communalised by collectivising the use of their facilities and registering them as communal homes ( domma-kommuny ). In most cases, communalisation was carried out by individual families being assigned a single room in the house, while a single kitchen and the entrance hall were converted into common places for cooking and socialising respectively. Bliznakov ( 1993: 85–86, 95–96 ) estimates that 865 such communal apartments were registered in Moscow by the end of 1921. [ ^ ]
  • Byt , Russian term used to refer to ‘daily life’. Victor Buchli ( 1998: 179 ) defines it as an ‘ethnographic term relating to the totality of quotidian behavior [including] food, clothing, domestic material culture and family life’. [ ^ ]
  • Translation by the author. The editors used the expression ‘house-organism’. In the first issue of Sovremennaya Arkhitektura , Ginzburg referred to the ‘organic condition of architecture’ to define the ‘social condenser’, that is, the specific material response of architecture which ought to result from the functional analysis of each of the parts that make up a building. For Ginzburg this connection between form and function was equivalent to that which characterised biological organisms ( Ginzburg 1926: 1–4 ). It should also be noted that he used dom , the Russian word for ‘house’, to refer to residential buildings. [ ^ ]
  • It is worth highlighting the similarities between the façade by Ol’ and that by Le Corbusier in the Pessac quarter, and between Pasternak’s design and Walter Gropius’ Siedlung Dammerstock. In addition, Ginzburg’s design of the façade is a clear nod to the fenêtre en longueur used by Le Corbusier in his Villa La Roche-Jeanneret. [ ^ ]
  • When revisiting the proposals submitted to the Comradely Competition in his book Zhilishche , Ginzburg distanced himself from the ‘hypertrophia’ of other housing experiments of the 1920s in which life was fully collectivised, the private domestic sphere disappeared and all the residents were expected to lead an identical and ‘universally-standardized way of life’ ( Ginzburg 2017: 138, 142 ). [ ^ ]
  • Nikol’skiy’s entry may not have included a communal area. This design was not accompanied by a written report and the floor plans do not seem to indicate any shared spaces beyond the potential use of the flat roof. [ ^ ]
  • Stroykom , abbreviation for Construction Committee . The Stroykom was in charge of regulating and rationalising issues referring to construction in the country. [ ^ ]
  • These requirements were 1) light in all living areas of the residential cell, as well as in corridors and stairwells; 2) cross ventilation and natural lighting on both façades of the dwelling; 3) identical orientation for all bedrooms; 4) size of the living rooms and bedrooms depending on the number of occupants, following the norm of nine square metres per person; 5) size and proportions of rooms in keeping with work and domestic function within them; 6) as much domestic equipment as possible; 7) favourable proportions of the rooms; and 8) practical colour solutions for all the surfaces of the dwelling ( Garrido 2007: 378–379 ; Ginzburg 1929: 6 ; Stroykom RSFSR 1929: 13 ). [ ^ ]
  • The fourth of the eight tasks set out by Stroykom RSFSR specifically comprised ‘the establishment of recommended housing types, representing the various agencies and organisations’ ( Narkomyust RSFSR 1928: 328–329 ; translation by the author). [ ^ ]

Authors Note

This article is a translated, revised and extended version of the original piece published in the Spanish journal Proyecto, Progreso, Arquitectura ( Movilla Vega and Espegel 2013 ). Figures 2 , 5 and 13 are unpublished documents. The introduction and epilogue were also expressly written for this article after the completion of the Ph.D. dissertation, Housing and Revolution ( Movilla Vega 2016 ).

The authors have no competing interests to declare.

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Bliznakov, M. 1993. Soviet Housing During the Experimental Years, 1918 to 1933. In: Brumfield, W and Ruble, B (eds.), Russian Housing in the Modern Age: Design and Social History , 85–148. Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press.

Buchli, V. 1998. Moisey Ginzburg’s Narkomfin Communal House in Moscow: Contesting the Social and Material World. Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 57(2): 160–81. DOI:

Buchli, V. 1999. An Archaeology of Socialism . Oxford, New York: Berg.

Buttchereit, S. 2013. Die farbige Gestaltung des Narkomfin-Hauses [The Colour Design of the Narkomfin House]. In: Cramer, J and Zalivako, A (eds.), Das Narkomfin-Kommunehaus in Moskau 1928–2012 , 75–89. Petersberg: Michael Imhof.

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Cohen, J-L. 2013. L’Immeuble du Narkomfin: Sources et Parallèles. In: Cramer, J and Zalivako, A (eds.), Das Narkomfin-Kommunehaus in Moskau, 1928–2012 , 150–56. Petersberg: Michael Imhof.

Cramer, J and Zalivako, A (eds.) 2013. Das Narkomfin-Kommunehaus in Moskau, 1928–2012 [The Narkomfin-Communal House in Moscow] . Petersberg: Michael Imhof.

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Espegel, C and Rojas, G. 2018. The Trail of American Domestic Engineers in European Social Housing. Proyecto, Progreso, Arquitectura , 18: 42–57. DOI:

Frederick, C. 1913. The New Housekeeping: Efficiency Studies in Home Management . Garden City: Doubleday, Page & Company.

Garrido, G (ed.) 2007. Moisei Gínzburg. Escritos: 1923–1930 [Moisey Ginzburg. Writings: 1923–1930] . Madrid: El Croquis.

Ginzburg, M. 1926. Novyye metody arkhitekturnogo myshleniya [New Methods in Architectural Thinking]. Sovremennaya Arkhitektura , 1: 1–4.

Ginzburg, M, et al. 1926a. Tovarishcheskoye sorevnovaniye OSA na eskiznyy proyekt zhilogo doma trudyashchikhsya [OSA’s Comradely Competition for Preliminary Design of Housing for Workers]. Sovremennaya Arkhitektura , 3: endpaper.

Ginzburg, M, et al. 1926b. Anketa SA [Survey]. Sovremennaya Arkhitektura , 4: 109.

Ginzburg, M. 1929. Slushali: Problemy tipizatsii zhil’ya RSFSR [Reading: The Problem of Housing Standardisation in the RSFSR]. Sovremennaya Arkhitektura , 1: 4–6.

Ginzburg, M. 1934. Zhilishche: Opyt pyatiletney raboty nad problemoy zhilishcha [Dwelling: Five Years’ Work on the Problem of the Habitation] . Moscow: Gosudarstvennoye nauchno tekhnicheskoye izd-vo stroitelnoy industrii i sudostroyeniya.

Ginzburg, M. 2017. Dwelling: Five Years’ Work on the Problem of the Habitation . London: Fontanka Publications and Ginzburg Design.

Hudson, H. 1986. ‘The Social Condenser of Our Epoch’: The Association of Contemporary Architects and the Creation of a New Way of Life in Revolutionary Russia. Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas , 34(4): 557–578.

Kazus, I. 2009. Sovetskaya arkhitektura 1920-kh godov: organizatsiya proyektirovaniya [Soviet Architecture of the 1920s: A Mapping of Organisations] . Moscow: Progress-Traditsiya.

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Milyutin, N. 1930. Sotsgorod. Problemy stroitel’stva sotsialisticheskikh gorodov: Osnovnyye voprosy ratsional’noy planirovki i stroitel’stva naselennykh punktov SSSR [Sotsgorod. The Problem of Building Socialist Cities: Basic Questions Regarding Rational Planning and Construction of Settlements] . Moscow: Gosudarstvennoye izdatel’stvo.

Movilla Vega, D. 2016. Vivienda y Revolución. El Concurso entre Camaradas de la OSA, la Sección de Tipificación del Stroykom y la Casa Experimental de Transición Narkomfin (1926–1930) [Housing and Revolution. OSA’s Comradely Competition, Typification Section of the Stroykom and Narkomfin Experimental Transitional House]. Unpublished thesis (PhD), Universidad Politécnica de Madrid.

Movilla Vega, D and Espegel, C. 2013. Hacia la nueva sociedad comunista: la Casa de Transición del Narkomfin, epílogo de una investigación [Towards the New Communist Society: The Transition House of Narkomfin, a Research Epilogue]. Proyecto, Progreso, Arquitectura , 1(9): 26–49. DOI:

Movilla Vega, D, et al. 2018. Building Narkomfin House in Moscow: Lessons from the Weimar Republic. Teka Komisji Urbanistyki i Architektury , 176: 177–79.

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Narkomyust RSFSR. 1928. Sobraniye uzakoneniy i rasporyazheniy Rabochego i Krest’yanskogo Pravitel’stva Rossiyskoy Sotsialisticheskoy Federativnoy Sovetskoy Respubliki [Collection of laws and orders of the Government of workers and citizens of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic] . Moscow: n. 26, first section, order 191, March 17th.

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Udovički-Selb, D. 2016. Sources of the Narkomfin: The New Byt and the Collectivization of Everyday Life. In: Udovicčki-Selb, D (ed.), Narkomfin: Moscow 1928–1930 , 48–75. Tübingen: Wasmuth.

Zalivako, A. 2013. Baumaterialien und Konstruktion des Narkomfin-Hauses [Building Materials and Construction of the Narkomfin House]. In: Cramer, J and Zalivako, A (eds.), Das Narkomfin-Kommunehaus in Moskau, 1928–2012 , 94–109. Petersberg: Michael Imhof.

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Home > Retrospective Theses and Dissertations > 933

Retrospective Theses and Dissertations

Moscow city housing.

Yulia Melikyan , University of Central Florida

Former Soviet republics; Housing -- Moscow (Russia)

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Bartling, Hugh

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Political Science

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Melikyan, Yulia, "Moscow city housing" (2003). Retrospective Theses and Dissertations . 933.

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  • Grand Rapids/Muskegon
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Senior housing project scrapped, but new houses and townhomes could go in its place

  • Published: Jul. 10, 2024, 8:11 a.m.

thesis housing project

PORTAGE, MI -- The Portage City Council approved preliminary plans for a 48-unit housing development during its Tuesday, July 9 meeting, replacing plans for senior housing.

The city previously approved plans for a 172-unit senior housing facility at the same site in 2022 — with plans to break ground on the complex in May 2023. StoryPoint has since abandoned that project and plans to sell the land, per city documents.

RELATED: New senior housing development expected to break ground next May in Portage

Green Development Ventures, LLC and Allen Edwin Homes want to build 38 single-family homes and 10 townhomes at 8150 Creekside Drive.

The council received the tentative development plans. Residents can comment on the plans during the Aug. 13 council meeting before they are finalized.

Creekside drive

A rendering shows different styles of homes included in development plans side by side. City of Portage

All of the homes will be two stories, between 1,450 and 2,085 square feet with three, four or five bedrooms, two or three bathrooms and an attached two-car garage.

There are also townhome buildings including in the plan, including two three-unit buildings and one four-unit building. Each townhome will be two stories tall with three bedrooms and a two-car garage.

Creekside Drive

A rendering shows the four-unit townhome. One of these buildings and two three-unit townhome buildings are included in tentative site plans. City of Portage

In May, the city approved plans for a 58-unit project called “Oakland Commons” elsewhere in Portage, coming from the same developers as this project.

“The homes will be very similar,” said Mike West, land planning manager with Green Development Ventures, LLC and Allen Edwin Homes.

RELATED: 58-unit housing development gets final approval in Portage

After four to six months of engineering and design work, final site plans will come back to the council for approval, West said.

The earliest the project could break ground is September 2025, West said.

Once complete, the homes will be available for rent, West said. An anticipated monthly rent is not available yet, however, the developer is considering using city development incentives like tax increment financing to offer units to low-income households.

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Affordable housing project proposed for downtown New Brunswick. Here's the plan

NEW BRUNSWICK – Ten new affordable housing units are proposed downtown.

Applicant CHM III LLC is seeking Zoning Board of Adjustment approval to construct two low-rise buildings with the 10 apartments and a case management office at 45 Remsen Ave., according to public documents.

The applicant will be seeking preliminary and final major site plan approval, as well as building height and bulk variance approvals. Plans for the project are not yet posted on the city's website.

The application is scheduled to be heard at the board's July 22 meeting.

More: Project will fix one of New Brunswick's most dangerous intersections

The building height variance is being requested because 35 feet is the maximum permitted and the proposed building will be more than 39 feet. The bulk variance is needed because the lot area must exceed 10,000 square feet and the proposed is 8,625 square feet. Also, the lot width must exceed 100 feet and the proposed is 75 feet, the documents say.

In addition, the rear yard setback must exceed 39.6 feet and the proposed is 5 feet; the side yard setback must be 15 feet and 5 feet is proposed and the building coverage must be no more than 50 percent and the proposed is 52 percent.

The project requires 21 parking spaces, but only 8 are proposed and must include three electric vehicle spaces but only two are planned. The project also requires a drive aisle width of at least 24 feet, but 21.4 feet is proposed.

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Rockville Centre public housing project to get $32.6 million in improvements

  Apartments are Rockville Manor would only be available to...

Apartments are Rockville Manor would only be available to seniors and the disabled who have an annual household income below $59,650.  Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

A public housing project in Rockville Centre for senior citizens and the disabled would be renovated and expanded under a $32.6 million plan put forward by the village’s housing authority and a private developer, according to officials and documents.

Six one-bedroom apartments would be added to the Rockville Manor facility at 579 Merrick Rd., along with a second elevator and revamped electrical system. There are 50 units there now.

The housing authority would form a partnership with D&F Development Group LLC in Levittown, which specializes in housing projects where 100% of the units are affordable.

Rockville Manor “needs a major renovation,” said Daniel P. Deegan, the partnership’s real estate attorney. “This will change the lifestyle and quality of life for the residents that live there.”

He said the housing authority is working with D&F because the authority doesn’t have the funds by itself to carry out the proposed plan, which would add 7,448 square feet to the 37,888-square-foot building.

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“The biggest problem with the property is that it hasn’t had the capital and maintenance put into it over the years, to the point where it requires this major renovation with several sources of financing,” Deegan told a meeting of the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency last month.

The housing authority and D&F have requested that the IDA grant a sales-tax exemption of up to $938,637 on the purchase of construction materials, equipment and furnishings plus $115,493 off the mortgage recording tax.

They also have asked for 30 years of property-tax savings. The authority now pays $17,926 per year to the village. It is exempt from property taxes levied by the school district and other governments, according to the application for IDA assistance.

The IDA board voted unanimously to begin negotiations with the authority and D&F for a tax-aid package.

In return for the potential incentives, the authority and D&F have promised to retain Rockville Manor’s one employee who earns about $35,000 per year, according to the application.

In March, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced $7.5 million in federal and state low-income housing tax credits and subsidies for the project.

“The only way to address New York’s housing crisis and bring down costs for families is to keep building and preserving homes,” she said at the time.

At the IDA meeting, Deegan estimated the waiting list to live at Rockville Manor totals about 450 people despite its tired condition. “This type of housing obviously has a big demand for it,” he said.

The facility’s apartments will only be available to individuals with an annual household income that doesn’t exceed the area median income, which is $59,650 in Nassau, based on data from home mortgage provider Fannie Mae.

IDA chairman William Rockensies said in an interview, “This is an attractive application because it’s 100% affordable housing for two groups that we need to help: seniors and the disabled.”

The construction project will take two years to complete, the application states.

One other property owned by the housing authority currently receives tax breaks from the county IDA, according to state records.

James T. Madore

James T. Madore writes about Long Island business news including the economy, development, and the relationship between government and business. He previously served as Albany bureau chief.

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Housing | Big housing project seeks harmony with lively…

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Housing | a reboot of the bay area heat on wednesday will bring with it a spare the air alert, subscriber only, housing | big housing project seeks harmony with lively san jose neighborhood, 100-plus homes are planned and dozens would be affordable.

126-unit apartment development that would include 26 affordable units, located at 940 Willow Street in the Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose, concept.

Fresh details have emerged for a project that would produce a seven-story apartment building containing well over 100 residences, according to documents on file with San Jose city planners.

Street-level view of a 126-unit housing development that would include 26 affordable residences, located at 940 Willow Street in the Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose, concept. (Studio Current)

The 126-unit residential development would be located at 940 Willow Street in San Jose, the city records show.

Redco Development, a real estate firm whose principal executives include Chris Friese, is leading the project. Studio Current, a veteran architectural firm, designed the apartment complex.

Residences and commercial spaces in a 126-unit apartment development that would include 26 affordable residences, located at 940 Willow Street in the Willow Glen area of San Jose, concept. (Studio Current)

The proposed housing development would be at the corner of Willow Street and Kotenberg Avenue.

Lincoln Avenue is the main business corridor of Willow Glen and is dotted with busy shops and restaurants.

“The 940 Willow project is a harmonious integration of modern design sensibilities with the delicate residential tapestry of the Willow Glen neighborhood in San Jose,” Studio Current states in a post on its website.

The vast majority of the units would be market-rate apartments. An estimated 26 units would be affordable apartments, the city documents show. That equates to about 20% of the 126 units.

“Nestled within the heart of this community, the project attempts to be a thoughtful response to its surroundings, weaving contemporary architecture into the fabric of tradition,” the Studio Current post says.

The proposed development is currently navigating the city approval process. How long the project might require to complete construction wasn’t immediately clear.

The property is owned by a real estate investment group based in the Los Angeles County city of Northridge and headed up by business executive Craig Schauer.

The Schauer-led group bought the property through a foreclosure auction in 2022, paying $1.9 million to purchase the site, documents on file in Santa Clara County show.

The project developer and architect hope the housing development meets the preferences of Willow Glen residents who previously have expressed concerns about some project proposals in the bustling neighborhood.

“The goal was to integrate this project into the surrounding residential area,” Studio Current states on its site.

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A 10,000-unit housing development at Suffolk Downs is on hold indefinitely. Here’s why.

The construction pause is a testament to how high interest rates and materials costs are preventing developers from building much-needed projects.

The site of the massive Suffolk Downs redevelopment, with the first new apartment building at the site, Amaya, pictured in the background.

REVERE — If one image could summarize the state of housing construction in Greater Boston right now, it might be the vast open space at Suffolk Downs.

At 10,000 units, the former horse racing track on the Boston-Revere border will be the single largest housing development in the region’s history when it’s done. The first building will open this summer, an eight-story, 475-unit blue-and-red apartment building with a modern look near the Beachmont Blue Line station.

But no more housing is underway here. There are no hammers clanging or cement trucks rumbling, just a sea of open land, mounds of dirt, materials, and equipment sitting unused.

Three years after Suffolk Downs won city approvals , there was supposed to be a lot more going on by now on the nearly four dozen other buildings that will eventually rise at the 161-acre property. But housing construction at the site is on hold until developer HYM Investment Group can hash out a complicated financing deal that has been pushed out of balance by an out-of-whack economy.

The holdup is a reality plaguing housing developers across Greater Boston over the last two years. Demand in our housing-starved region is sky high. And developers such as HYM’s Tom O’Brien have all the hard-won permits they need. But for all the attention paid lately to fights over zoning and other local approvals, securing permits to build isn’t even the hard part right now. Amid high interest rates and materials costs , raising enough money is the real problem.


“The whole dynamic of housing finance has shifted,” said O’Brien. “It has become so much harder to make these projects work.”

Indeed, every major ingredient of an apartment building — from wood to steel to electrical components — costs more than it did before COVID. Overall materials costs have jumped 43 percent since the start of 2020 . Interest rates for construction loans have more than tripled. The investors who typically fund housing development are demanding higher returns, too. Financing new housing in Massachusetts was a complex undertaking five years ago; now it seems impossible.

There’s no hard-and-fast tally of permitted units that are not under construction across dozens of Greater Boston communities. But officials in suburban towns talk about construction permits sitting on the shelf because developers can’t close on financing. In Boston, for example, researchers at the city’s planning and development agency last year estimated there were nearly 23,000 units stuck in the pipeline. (For comparison, from 2017 through 2021, a little more than 20,000 units were built in Boston, according to a 2022 report from the Mayor’s Office of Housing .)

One proxy measure of the backlog comes from the housing developed under the state’s 40B law, which allows developers to bypass local zoning in towns that have insufficient levels of affordable housing. Officials at the quasi-state agency MassHousing say they know of some 20,000 units on pause right now. Those mixed-income projects typically rely on revenues from market-rate apartments to finance the affordable units, making them particularly vulnerable to economic shifts.

The story is much the same all over the region. Through the first five months of the year, fewer than 5,000 units worth of building permits were issued across Greater Boston. That’s down a bit from the same time in 2023, which itself was the slowest year for new housing production in more than a decade.

In a region like Greater Boston, where homes and apartments are already in extremely short supply, that will have consequences for years to come, with supply continuing to fall even further behind demand .

“We need that pressure of new construction to bring down rents,” said Adam Guren, an economist at Boston University. “So I would find it worrisome if there’s going to be a lull in building. It’s pretty simple: If there’s a construction lag hitting us in several years and demand remains strong for the Boston area, mechanically, rents have to go up.”

O’Brien, who spent years working on the permits for Suffolk Downs, blames two key factors: the rise of interest rates and construction costs.

The price of lumber and steel — major ingredients in housing construction — shot up during the pandemic thanks to international supply chain disruptions. They’ve since stabilized, but have not come back down to prepandemic levels.

Interest rates, too, shot up as the Federal Reserve moved to tackle inflation , which has made it more expensive for developers to secure construction loans. Interest rates on construction loans are roughly 5 percentage points higher than in 2022.

For an example, O’Brien points to a residential tower HYM built as part of the redevelopment of the Government Center Garage . When HYM broke ground in 2017, it cost the company around $680,000 per unit to build. Today, he said, that figure would be more like $1 million.

What’s more, given what they can earn by simply stashing cash in a bank right now, the investors who normally finance housing development are demanding higher returns. So to draw that investment, developers have to make even more money off of their buildings. This can translate to higher rents, but rents have their limits too.

“Imagine you had a building that was before returning 6 percent” on an investment, said Guren. “With a higher construction cost you’re returning maybe 4 percent. That building used to make twice as much income as was necessary to build. Now it’s not enough.”

That is ultimately what O’Brien says is preventing more construction at Suffolk Downs. HYM is working on a deal to build a second apartment building on the Revere side of the site, but right now it would cost roughly $400,000 a unit. He figures he needs to get that down to $350,000 to secure a deal with investors. So HYM has been working to simplify the architecture of the building and cut back some amenities to make the costs balance.

The first new building at Suffolk Downs will open this summer, an eight-story, 475-unit blue-and-red apartment complex called Amaya.

“The equity is literally like an on-off switch,” O’Brien said. “Either you get to the six and a half percent return on cost, or you don’t have a project.”

But while it’s easy to flip the production switch to “off,” turning it back on takes a lot more time.

From conception to grand opening, it takes about five years for a developer to build an apartment building around here. Even permitted projects will need years before they actually house people. There are still projects underway that launched before interest rates spiked, but a lull is coming once those are finished.

“If financing markets (hopefully) ease by mid-2025, we would expect new units to be available in 2030, with the intervening years providing little new production,” development firm Cabot Cabot and Forbes put it in a recent white paper.

Andrew Chaban, chief executive of Princeton Properties, a local developer and apartment owner, explains it like this: Nearly every step of the financing process — from buying the land, to securing a construction loan, to attracting equity — has become more complicated and expensive, driving project costs up. When project costs go up, those expenses get passed on to renters.

“There’s nowhere else for those costs to go, if we want the housing to get built,” said Chaban.

Some experienced developers are still moving projects along in the suburbs, But even some major suburban developments, including a housing and life sciences complex at the Riverside MBTA stop in Newton that was first proposed in 2018, are stuck.

The nearly 600-unit Riverside project has been paused since late 2022 , and the formula for moving it forward “just doesn’t work” anymore, said Howard Cohen, board chair of Beacon Communities, one of the developers.

Part of the problem, said Cohen, is that the market for lab development, which was supposed to be the focus of the first phase of the Riverside project, has cratered.

In recent years, builders have had success bundling labs and housing in one project because the lab space could help subsidize the housing. Now both sides of the deal are hard to finance. Cohen said the developers are talking with investors, but may need to accelerate housing into the first phase, which will require more city permits.

Developers will seek changes for a mixed-use residential, retail, and business project at the MBTA's Riverside station that was approved by Newton's City Council last year.

The economic forces that have thrown off Riverside, he warned, could still take several years to correct.

“Fundamentally, we’ve got an equation right now that doesn’t work,” said Cohen. “Over the long run the equation will get straightened out. But we don’t know how long that’s going to take, and in the meantime we need to keep building.”

Cohen and other developers see an urgent need to get things moving again, whether the economy stabilizes soon or not.

Some are backing an idea from MassHousing to create a “momentum fund” that could be used to plug financing gaps for mixed-income housing so they can break ground. The proposal is included in the housing bond bill currently before the Legislature, where the House proposed $250 million and the Senate offered $50 million; the precise amount could be negotiated in the coming weeks.

“We need to find a way to keep building,” said MassHousing CEO Chrystal Kornegay. “And if we don’t start now, the day when we have the housing we need coming online moves further and further away.”

Andrew Brinker can be reached at [email protected] . Follow him @andrewnbrinker .


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