Nouakchott was a small village until 1960 when the city was declared the capital of the newly independent nation of Mauritania. Planned to accommodate fewer than 20,000 inhabitants, the city expanded rapidly in the 1970s, largely due to informal settlements due to immigration from the countryside caused by desertification and loss of agricultural land. A resettlement program to clear these settlements began in 2009.
The two projects aimed to provide examples of affordable housing for residents of informal settlements in the fast-growing urban environments of Rosso and Nouakchott, Mauritania. Together, the core projects comprised a total of 128 model homes and related buildings constructed between 1977 and 1983, together with a range of related upgrading and income-generating activities aimed at improving the living conditions of the urban population. Locally available gypsum powder is exploited as a building material utilized in construction Nubian vault and domes, the resulting forms and volumes, help offer an alternative to the acute housing shortage. Walls, domes, and vaults are made of locally available gypsum plaster, as are the mortar and smooth render finish. The labour force and materials were entirely local.