1.1.6 Course structure of Global Housing Design

Course subject(s) Module 1: Getting started: Global Housing Design


Course overview

Building adequate housing is a pressing issue worldwide. With close to a billion people currently living in slums, accommodating a growing population, and improving dwelling conditions is a critical issue for society.

This challenge cannot be solved with a one-size-fits-all approach. Every city, region and country demand their own housing models and prototypes. That’s why housing design needs to negotiate many aspects simultaneously to achieve sustainable urban environments and inclusive dwelling communities.

This course uncovers how social, economic and environmental factors are interrelated in the design of housing settlements. For this, the course dives into three key aspects that anyone involved in housing design should take into consideration: time, environment, and community. Each of these aspects will be examined through a specific design approach, respectively:

  • Incrementality: how dwelling environments should be able to accommodate growth and change through time.
  • Typology Mix: how design can be responsive to different patterns of inhabitation, aspirations and cultural backgrounds, creating inclusive dwelling environments.
  • Clustering: what methods and strategies can shape the association of dwelling units in order to create meaningful communities.

In this course, each of these themes will be discussed in detail and exemplified by a new analytical approach to award-winning housing projects developed in different geopolitical contexts. While each of these themes will examine aspects related to the design decision-making process, the course aims at addressing concerns that go beyond the design disciplines. Hence, regardless of background or level of expertise, this course will introduce learners to the core issues and challenges of global housing design, using examples from different regions.

This course has been developed by TU Delft’s Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment in collaboration with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC). It offers a unique combination of videos, documentation of key case studies, animations, and feedback sessions. We will discuss options for affordable housing design, with a particular focus on low- and middle-income countries. We will take you through the intricacies of designing “housing for the large number”, as well as inspire you to understand your own context and the housing challenges you might be facing.

Learning objectives

So, what will you actually learn in this course? At the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • Identify social practices and spatial configurations that determine the qualities of existing dwelling communities.
  • Understand how incrementality, typology mix and clustering can become key design approaches in enhancing the living conditions of urban communities.
  • Recognize design approaches that can contribute to the development of adequate housing neighbourhoods.
  • Compare the characteristics of housing schemes designed by different architects taking account of different social, political and geographical contexts.
  • Evaluate the performance of dwelling communities taking into consideration the relation between social, economic and environmental factors.
  • Formulate a design hypothesis and/or a managerial strategy to develop an inclusive dwelling community based on incrementality, typology mix and clustering.

 Module 1 – Getting started 

The course begins with an introduction to the main design themes, course structure and some other more practical matters. In the following modules, the themes will be discussed in detail and exemplified by a new analytical approach to housing projects that have won the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture, and that were developed in the 1970s and 1980s, a period of intense advancement in housing design and theory.

The following three modules present the three themes that we consider essential for the design of adequate mass housing. Each of these thematic modules covers one design theme and contains video lectures, animations.

Module 2 – Incrementality 

This module focuses on incrementality. We will discuss how housing can be designed to accommodate growth and change through time. This approach to housing design has been widely discussed and debated over the last century, and it is usually associated with a period of resource scarcity and economic austerity.

The Indian architect, B.V. Doshi’s Aranya Low-Cost Housing project in Indore is a very good example of allowing people to build and mould their own houses, and best demonstrates his ideas for low-income housing and incrementality – that architecture must allow for growth and change. Designed for a population of about 60,000 people across some 85 hectares, Aranya, today, has grown to resemble a typical Indian town where narrow streets are shaded by a variety of houses, ranging from ground story dwellings to even three-floor high urban townhouses.

Module 3 – Typology Mix 

This module will discuss the importance of creating a typology mix in housing settlements. This design approach will be discussed through a close look to Shushtar New Town, a project designed by the Iranian architect, Kamran Diba.

Shushtar was designed to house 30,000 industrial workers along the principles of traditional urban patterns typically found in old Iranian towns and cities. In this project, an interwoven urban fabric built in (mud) brick construction houses a diverse set of dwelling types that at the same time are carefully orchestrated in a master plan consisting of gardens, paved squares, covered and shaded resting places, arcades and bazaars.

Module 4 – Clustering 

This module focuses on clustering as a design strategy to create meaningful communities. We will study in-depth the Dar Lamane Housing project in Casablanca, Morocco.

We will analyse how this low-income residential community built for 25,000 people, and consisting of over 4,000 units, makes use of an ingenious clustering of four-and five-story apartment blocks, organized around a large central square in which the mosque, markets and festival hall are located.

Modules 5 – Global Perspectives 

In this module we will expand our discussion on incrementality, typology mix and clustering. After discussing in detail how each of these design strategies were implemented in a particular case study, in this module we will review how the same strategy was developed in different geopolitical contexts. In this module we will also include lectures that relate the themes of this course with broader societal themes addressed in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Module 6 – Review 

In this module we will review the themes of the course.


Delft University of Technology holds the copyright to all DelftX courses, including Global Housing Design. Unless otherwise stated, the course materials of this course are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 License. For licensing purposes, “course materials” are defined as the syllabus, learning objectives, unit descriptions and explanations, videos and the framing text that accompanies resources curated from third parties. That excludes the third party resources themselves, forum discussions, quizzes, exercises and all forms of assessment.

Creative Commons License
Global Housing Design by TU Delft OpenCourseWare is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://online-learning.tudelft.nl/courses/global-housing-design/
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