Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in the world—and its capital, Maputo, suffers from infrastructural challenges and urban sprawl. In hopes of initiating sustainable urban development in the city’s informal settlements, Johan Mottelson and Jørgen Eskemose of the Institute of Architecture, Urbanism & Landscape at KADK, the Mozambican NGO Estamos, and Architects without Borders – Denmark have teamed up to develop Casas Melhoradas, an affordable housing research project. Designed with urban density and sustainable practices in mind, the groups’ latest housing prototype features a low-rise high-density development sensitive to cultural and site context.
Completed in 2018, the Casas Melhoradas housing prototype takes on a row-housing typology that fits six dwellings on a plot that normally would have been used for single-family housing, thereby combating urban sprawl and the capital’s “growing infrastructure deficit” through example. The primary building materials are concrete and compressed bricks made from local soil, which gives the earth blocks their reddish tone. The project was completed in collaboration with local builders, with whom the housing models, building techniques and production methods—including experiments with prefabrication—were tested.
According to the project partners, “Casas Melhoradas is an applied research project on housing for low-income groups in the informal settlements of Maputo, Mozambique with a three-fold focus: 1) developing alternative construction methods to improve the quality and decrease the cost of housing; 2) developing housing typologies that utilize space and infrastructure more economically to initiate a more sustainable urban development; 3) engaging in construction of affordable rental housing through public and private partnerships to scale up the impact of the project.”
The housing units, which are rented out through a local nonprofit housing organization that reinvests income into new housing projects, feature private outdoor kitchens (a necessity due to the predominate use of charcoal) equipped with gas stoves in an effort to reduce air pollution. Common courtyards offer shared bathrooms and laundry facilities. A green roof has also been installed to improve the microclimate. Casas Melhoradas is currently seeking donors and investors for future collaboration.