Low Rise by Charles Correa

IMG_1627 [1280x768]” Unfortunately the notion of low-rise housing is associated with the kind of sprawl one sees in the suburbs of westerns cities, but this, of course, is not what we are talking about. In its concentrated form, low-rise housing is the timeless and classic pattern of residential land-use. It has a number of crucial advantages:

1. It is incremental. That is it can grow with he owner’s requirements and his earning capacity  This advantage may  soon  become a political imperative in Third World counties, where available resources – for the next few years at least – will be pre-empted by other priorities.

2. It has great variety, since the individual owner can design and build according to his own needs.

3. This pattern is sensitive to the social / cultural / religious determinants of our environment – factors which are of increasing concern in developing countries. It is relatively easy for the people to adjust the s[aces to suit their own preferred lifestyles.

4. It make for speedier provision of housing  since an individual building, his own house, is a highly motivated person. Furthermore  this initiative engenders an increase in per capita savings, so that housing is built without sacrificing other national investment targets.

5. A low-rise building has a much shorter construction period than a high-rise complex. Thus, the interest cost of capital tied up during construction is considerably less.

6. High-priority construction  material need not be use. Multi-storey buildings must use steel and cement, commodities which are in excruciating short supply in developing countries. In contrast, individual houses can be made out of just about anything, starting with bamboo an mud-bricks, then improved over time.

7. Admittedly, if the house is constructed of inexpensive materials, then it may not have a life span of more than 15 or 20 years – as compared to a  concrete structure with a life span of about 70 years. But this impermanence is really an advantage. For after 20 years, when our economy improves, we will presumably have more resources to devote to housing.  As Charles Abrams pointed out, renewability should be one of the prime objectives of mass housing developing countries: for as the nation’s economy develops, the housing patterns can change. And this option can be ensured by assigning housing sites not to individual owners themselves but to co-operatives of, say, 20 to 50 families. In time, perhaps 2 or 3 decades from now, the whole parcel of land can be re-developed in keeping with the technological an economic advances of that day.  The ugly multi-storey concrete tenement slums built by governmental housing agencies all over the Third World are really the work of pessimists. What they are saying is: we aren’t going to have any future.

8.  Maintenance is much easier on low-rise buildings. The cheapest whitewash can be slapped on by a person on top of an ordinary ladder. In contrast, high-rise buildings are not only expensive to maintain (painting them requires special external scaffolding) but they rise above the tree tops, spoiling the skyline for miles around. This penomenon is becoming a horrific problem in most Third World cities.

But for the Third World there is one other advantage to this pattern of housing that may prove to be the most decisive of all, and the is Equity.”

Correa, C., 1989. The New Landscape: Urbanization in the Third World. London: Butterworth Architecture, pp. 49-51.

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About juliakingat

British / Venezuelan, Architect & Urban Researcher; PhD Candidate

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