Gelil, Nermine Abdel. "Less Space, More Spatiality for Low Income Housing Units in Egypt: Ideas from Japan," in ArchNet-IJAR: International Journal of Architectural Research, vol. 5, issue 2 (2011).
In 1996, the Egyptian government launched a national housing project for low-income families. To minimize cost, it has progressively reduced units’ sizes. Numerous surveys indicate that unit specifications were based on political and economic criteria, rather than on users’ needs, which resulted in the recurrence of the persistent phenomenon of individual modifications. A number of scholars and architects concerned with this phenomenon are advocating the revival of the social design principles of traditional Cairene houses (16th – 19th century) after adapting them to contemporary needs. However, they provide no concrete solutions as to how to achieve this in small scale units located in multi-storey buildings. During my research in Japan, I was introduced to traditional middle class urban houses. Their practical designs used to resolve issues of privacy, internal flexibility, storage, and family growth can be beneficially applied to housing units in Egypt. This paper first explains why relying solely on traditional housing designs to resolve social issues associated with low-income units in Egypt is both fanciful and incomplete, then discusses why ideas from Japanese homes can be beneficially applied to low-income housing units in Egypt. Third, this paper examines issues in these units and the resultant modifications by Egyptian households. Next, it analyzes concepts of spatial organization, modular systems, partitioning, and storage in traditional middle class urban houses in Japan. Finally, this paper formulates proposals for fulfilling the social needs of occupants in Egypt by integrating these ideas into low-income housing units.