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 project emphasises the idea of 'seeding a dwelling' as a viable model for low-cost housing. The 'seed' consists of one room, a separate latrine, and the enclosure around the plot. As economic resources become available the inhabitants can adapt the plot, using the existing walls as support for the construction of further rooms until they achieve a full patio house, with a back yard for stabling animals. The structure is made of reinforced concrete and blocks of gypsum (of which Mauritania has an abundant supply). The exterior is finished with gypsum cement, coloured with soil.