, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 167-186
Date: 01 Nov 2012

Design strategy and informal transformations in urban housing

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Dweller-initiated transformations are mostly chided for their apparent locational spontaneity that is often at variance with functional and aesthetic objectives in formal housing design. This presumes speculator-driven motives as sole reasons for the phenomenon, and yet others, including the social and physical functional objectives also underlie the processes. The paper uses empirical findings from Nairobi housing estates—Buru-Buru; a middle-income estate and Kaloleni; a Council rental estate—to illustrate physical qualities in informal transformations of formal housing. Using measurements and illustrative material, the results show a (sub)-conscious rationale that generates tenements while also retaining the desired socio-spatial qualities of the middle-income neighbourhood. It is posited that a design strategy that is responsive to the varied objectives of economy, social and physical spatial demands of housing should inform concepts in housing design. This is aimed at enhancing environmental qualities of formal housing that emerge when faced with unilateral transformations.