Mumbai: Incremental Housing

Informal settlements in India provide a backdrop of communal unity and activity but there is no denying their need for infrastructural redevelopment. Corrugated tin houses often line lanes of open sewers with rubbish sprawled throughout. As policies have the authority to dictate the type of architectural redevelopment that occurs within these areas, noting the Maharashtra Slum Areas Act, 1971 and The Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) Scheme, any new urban form should foster the networks of community and economy that already exist. Whether the new form seeds from architecture designed for the mass or the incremental strategy of housing for individual families, consideration of the context is paramount in rehabilitating these areas.

Slum areas of Mumbai

Architects Filipe Balestra and Sara Göransson of Urban Nouveau* were invited by The Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC) to create an incremental housing scheme for a slum area in Pune, India. SPARC is an Indian NGO that works on finding solutions for housing and infrastructure issues experienced by the urban poor.[1] The Incremental Housing Strategy eventually devised by Balestra and Göransson is one that fostered communal values through ongoing community engagement when creating housing prototypes.[2]

Workshop in Netaji Nagar, Yerawada, Pune
Workshops that brought together architects, local government, and local communities. In particular, a 12.5 sqm rectangle test.


Community meeting: Urban Nouveau* conducted 20 to 30 community meetings to ensure fair agreements were being made.

The three strategies that were created allow for versatility by providing the opportunity for vertical extensions and openings at varying levels.[3]  The most interesting of all three prototypes is Housing Strategy B. House B is a 2 storey house on pilots which creates a ground floor open for uses such as a garage but even more importantly a shopfront.[4] This arrangement fosters economic mobility by providing a space for families to earn an income.  In an interview conducted for the Area Magazine of Architecture and Design Arts in 2014, Urban Nouveau* stated that 572 of the total 1200 houses from the pilot project were under construction.[5]

Housing Strategy B

Beyond housing, these three storey increments also have the potential to be utilised as workers’ housing and manufacturing areas. In 2011, the New York Times published an article within which described the dwelling of a resident.

“Inside, carpenters are assembling furniture on the ground floor. One floor up, men are busily cutting and stitching blue jeans. Upstairs from them, workers are crouched over sewing machines, making blouses. And at the top, still more workers are fashioning men’s suits and wedding apparel. One crumbling shanty. Four businesses.”[6]

The structure of these housing strategies reflects an existing framework for which manufacturing takes place. Each storey within the proposal has the potential to become a different area for the manufacturing of a variety of items. By implementing these new strategies, not limited to housing, the new built form has the potential to improve conditions for workers by creating a more concrete workplace rather than a ‘crumbling shanty’.

Implementation collage: kaccha houses incremented and customised

Urban Nouveau’s incremental housing strategy is one that fosters community values by including the meaningful engagement of residents within the design process. It is clear that without the redevelopment of public infrastructure and amenities this project cannot stand alone in improving slum conditions, however, it does display a strategy that ensures economic mobility can be sustained through redevelopment.

Foster + Partners’ Dharavi Master Plan is a strategy on a larger scale that investigates the potential for the redevelopment of Dhavari’s entire urban fabric in contrast to Urban Nouveau’s incremental scheme. In the next article, an investigation into the Dharavi Master Plan will explore the framework for the proposal that embraces the district as part of the growing prosperity of Mumbai.[7]



[1] “SPARC- Society For The Promotion Of Area Resource Centres” SPARC INDIA, accessed March 27, 1017

[2] David Basulto, “Incremental Housing Strategy in India / Filipe & Sara Göransson” Archdaily, May 8, 2009, accessed March 21, 2017,

[3] Basulto, “Incremental Housing Strategy in India / Filipe & Sara Göransson”

[4] Basulto, “Incremental Housing Strategy in India / Filipe & Sara Göransson”

[5] Laura Andreini, “Incremental Housing Strategy,” area magazine of architecture and design arts, October 4, 2014, accessed March 27, 2017,

[6] Jim Yardley, “In One Slum, Misery, Work, Politics and Hope,” New York Times, December 28, 2011, accessed March 22, 2017,

[7] “Dharavi Masterplan,” Foster + Partners, accessed March 27, 2017,


Feature Image

Filipe & Sara Göransson, “Aerial collage,” Archdaily, accessed March 22, 2017,

Image 1

Kristian Bertel, “Slums areas of Mumbai (Bombay) in India,” Kristian Bertel, accessed March 21, 2017

Image 2

Filipe & Sara Göransson, “Workshop in Netaji Nagar, Yerawada, Pune,” Archdaily, accessed March 22, 2017,

Images 3 and 4

Filipe & Sara Göransson, “Incremental Housing Strategy,” Area, accessed March 27, 2017,

Image 5

Filipe & Sara Göransson, “House B”, Archdaily,  accessed March 22, 2017,

Image 6

Filipe & Sara Göransson, “Implementation collage: kaccha houses incremented and customized,” Archdaily,  accessed March 22, 2017,


Maria Da Cunha

Maria Da Cunha is currently studying a Master of Architecture at the University of Western Australia. Upon recent travels to India she became interested in the relationship between Mumbai's built environment and its urban fabric.

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