Housing from Above and Below


Kenny Cupers, Manuel Herz, Sophie Oldfield

Course Description:

Our world is rapidly urbanizing, with an increasing share of the population living in metropolitan regions and mega-cities, especially in the global South. Housing has been and continues to be a major tool to make cities livable and to improve and govern them. Yet, the outcomes of these large-scale modernization projects are often socially and politically contested.

What is the role of housing in shaping cities? What are the sometimes radical dreams of architects and planners and the commercial schemes of developers that underpin housing development? How do governments and policy makers push these types of projects? How do ordinary people, those simply needing a place to live, adapt to and transform housing? In this course we explore the disjunction between what is planned and envisioned, and the concrete lived experiences and transformations of these environments once built.

The course focuses on three concrete sites of state-driven housing development in Paris, Abidjan, and Cape Town. We will explore the role of national policy-making, local histories, social and ethnic dynamics, architecture and technology, and transnational developments in shaping the successes and failures of housing.

The course is taught by Kenny Cupers (Professor of History and Theory of Architecture and Urbanism), Manuel Herz (Professor of Architectural, Urban and Territorial Design), Sophie Oldfield (Professor of Urban Studies, University of CapeTown).

Course Application:

If you are not enrolled at the University of Basel but interested in the course please contact Michelle Killenberger (michelle.killenberger@unibas.ch).


We welcome Swiss and international students from the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and design fields interested in joining our MA program in Critical Urbanisms in Fall 2018. Current Master’s and Ph.D. students are not eligible, unless they have an explicit commitment to enroll in our Master’s program.

Part of Module:

Processes and Projects of Urbanization

Type:  Seminar
Semester:  Fall
Credit Points:  3 CP
Location:  Alte Gewerbeschule, Studio 357
Language of instruction:  English
Scale:  Pass/Fail