Beyond Modernist Housing: Can the Mass Housing Model Accommodate Human Agency? | The Plan Journal

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Nadia Shah

The lack of attention paid to the disempowerment of the residents has been a shortcoming of the modern mass housing model. Even today, no policies promote and support the residents’ efforts to continue improving their quality of life through actions involving changing the physical environment. Following a brief history of the origins of mass housing in the West through the discourse in the modern movement, the paper expands on implementing these modern ideas in the post-War non-Western region and how they were received and appropriated there. The article presents the case study from the author’s work on Korangi Town in Karachi, Pakistan, to show that the residents’ changes reflect their active agency. However, it was an unintentional outcome of modernist design and planning. This paper is more than just a critique of the cultural apathy of modernism. It questions what happens to a modernist project after the expert leaves the arena. How do residents adapt to or cope with their physical environment? Moreover, is there a way to include human agency in mass housing?