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Need For An Evaluation In The Light Of Its Universalised Concern Against Universalised Solution
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of M. Arch. Course no. Arch. 6301 : Housing Problems and Policies.

Course Teacher

Professor Meer Mobashsher Ali

Department of Architecture Bangladesh University of Engineering & Technolgy Dhaka

Submitted by

K M Mustapha Khalid
Roll No. 9217 Department of Architecture Bangladesh University of Engineering & Technolgy Dhaka

April, 1996



In the year 1984 the Grameen Bank, a specialised financial institution for the rural people, volunteered to mitigate the housing backlog of the rural poor who are landless and shelterless. They provided the assistance in the form of a loan scheme only to the existing borrowers of Grameen Bank to construct or rehabilitate their houses. This noble programme was first initiated after the flood of 1987 with the partial grant provided by UNDP to the Government of Bangladesh. The programme took vigorous shape after the severe flood of 1988 with the further fund offered by UNDP to rehabilitate the rural catastrophe affected houses. The success of Grameen Banks programme till today is considered as the mile stone in eradicating the housing problems of the rural poor. This programme has proved to be one of the very few valid approaches so far undertaken in the country to housing the rural poor. The ultimate recognition came to Grameen Bank in 1989 when its Housing project received the most prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture in social development. Grameen Banks housing loan programme is a

complementary addition towards perfecting the total loan

operation programme of Grameen Bank. Like the rest of Grameen Bank loans, the housing loans are without collateral.

The objective of the Grameen Bank Housing Programme


is easily envisaged as it accommodates offering for those who are the vital and mammoth section of the country. Housing, like other basic needs, is considered as the human right. The very idea of the programme emancipates self reliance of a family and the family must have an anchorage. The programme is so designed that the borrowers will be able to repay the amount through other activities. The ultimate desire of mankind is the potential of the Grameen Banks Rural Housing Programme.

SOCIO-ECONOMIC IMPACT Grameen Bank Housing Programme has enabled

thousands of poor households to live in durable (CI sheet roofed) houses. The better housing has given them a respectable social esteem and a sense of permanence,

thereby the ultimate strength in overall productivity. The most important achievement is that the rural poor are no longer scared to seek credit and this reflects the growing confidence and economic strength of the rural poor. Grameen Banks assistance in housing the rural poor will be playing most pivotal role in improving the social and economic condition of the people.

DESIGN CONCEPT 4.01 The structure and the material

Having the Basic House of Grameen Bank is obviously a great opportunity for the rural shelterless people as it sets minimum standard for a house in terms of durability and economy. The introduction of roofing is a sensational RCC pillars and CI sheet in the change



development of traditional houses. However, the weaker part of the design in terms of stability is the use of minimum number of RCC pillars which is further multiplied by the recommended as well as the practised depth of the pillars into the ground. Moreover, as the pillars do no have any horizontal bracing the they seems vulnerable to the heavy wind and flood.

Fig. 1 Grameen Banks BASIC HOUSE Courtesy: CUS report, 1989

Fig. 2 Grameen Banks BASIC HOUSE Courtesy: CUS report, 1989

Fig. 3 Grameen Banks BASIC HOUSE Courtesy: CUS report, 1989

Fig. 4 Grameen Banks BASIC HOUSE Courtesy: CUS report, 1989



Before going to any physical intervention into rural areas, one must see how the rural settlement geography of Bangladesh has evolved over the history. Attempts should be made to understand both implicit and explicit phenomena of prevailing inter-regional variations in socioeconomic determinants of physical development, lifestyle, kinship, cultural norms. Though these factors seem to be significant at a micro-level of settlement yet the housing types and their interrelationship between individual units should not be overlooked. Overemphasis on only physical

development, to the neglect of the emerging new rural landscape would cast shadow over any projected goal. First of all, one should not forget that the different components of rural settlements have different metaphysical connotations, the rural house Bari does not only stand for a mere shelter but an image printed in the memories of the villagers for centuries. Traditionally in rural Bangladesh the layout of the house is more important than the three dimensional enclave. Usually structures are placed in four cardinal directions around a uthan (court). The rural houses are usually small and have less covered area; rooms are primarily sleeping quarters; most other activities taking place out doors. The layout of different units housing different functions are meticulous. The layout gives strong emphasis on privacy and separation of male and female zones. (Ali, M. M., Rural Housing)

Fig. 5 Traditional rural settlement layout


We know that Grameen Bank Housing Scheme has turned to be a major catalyst to change the future rural landscape from where they only set to help provide floodand water-resistant houses (Indian Architect & Builder, 1990) to the landless poor. By the granting of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture to the Grameen Bank Housing Programme the indigenous settlement structures of Bangladesh are now exposed to the laboratory of continuity of vernacular living heritage of Bengal. This is quite understandable when Kirtee Shah of ASAG* pointed out both the quality of future village landscape (when a majority of current Grameen borrowers - 2 million families - would acquire a new shelter five years down the line) and the quality of the individual housing unit. (Shah, K. 1995) To construct a new house or rehabilitate an existing one (Islam, N., Chowdhury, A. I., Ali, K. 1989) based on physical factors is destined to achieve a little in the long run. This approach may only fit a short term vision of the inevitable future but will not lead to a conducive environment in its totality; the interaction of living heritage, people and environment.


This is the time now for Grameen Bank to evaluate their housing programme from the perspective of housing as a socio-cultural problem. Definitely there are scopes for improving several areas of Grameen Bank Housing Programme, specifically in the design areas of their basic house-type and on the concept of larger units consisting of those basic types such as grouped arrangement. After addressing more of basic issues like shelter that protects from the elements (Shah, K. 1995) it is now more a question of imparting human dignity to the families rather than improving the standard of living (Ali, M. M., Rural Housing). Grameen Bank after reaching the poorest required no subsidisation, however the beneficiary should have his own choice of house-form, at least he might be given the privilege of greater variety to choose form (Ali, M. M., Rural Housing). To its task with total commitment, Grameen Bank has demonstrated affordable ultimate and viability at and feasibility levels of but participatory planning at lending to the rural poor at terms implementation definitely lacks at design level. This may echo the concern of Kirtee Shah of becoming elitist but to a professional housing can never be treated as a mere product nor a process, the product value of a house on the aspects covering its design, quality, context, imageability, efficiency, flexibility and process value of a house as a dynamic system that consistently manifests the needs and priorities of its users must not be ignored. A strong ideology should mark the design principles of Grameen Bank Housing Programme as their credit-faculty has already shown. The spirit should be to achieve a sense of social-continuum of traditional rural living

heritage of Bangladesh. The design principles can be set as followed.


To project a settlement character in harmony with the traditional social-continuum and cultural connotations. Being involved in the housing and rural settlement development Grameen Bank has definitely earned a significant expertise, but it would not be rational at this moment to disregard the other wider agendas of settlement, like imageability in the form of traditional identity of our rural scene. Grameen Bank should be aware of the fact that if they do not look into the matters concerning their present stand of laying out of houses to form a rectangular chain around a common rectangular area, the situation may turned into nothing but the newer forms of rural-slum type development. The apathy has lot to do with prevalent design and planning standards. They tend to be more of quantitative and prescriptive than qualitative and performance-oriented. This reflects the definite lack of awareness, or understanding of the imageability determined by the peoples way of life - the socio-cultural attributes.



Fig. 6 A GB planned community experinced in a village of Tangail reflects the layout eventually to be turned into a rural-slum type development Courtesy: CUS report, 1989

To allow progressive incremental development. To achieve this the present scheme can be culminated in the establishment of a counselling body of the borrowers and GB representatives comprising design professionals. This institutionalisation of the process can monitor and advocate continuity and maintenance. The Grameen Bank house-type scheme should be

conceived as a continuous process or as

part of a

process of change rather than the present concept of a static one. The present system only allows the borrowers to build a single house and after the successful repayment the same can borrow for another house. This has

ultimately resulted in an imminent fragmentation in the physical development of overall settlement pattern. It is therefore expected that the counselling body should advocate the provisions for borrowing money to build a house-type (envisioned in 3. Variety) that may undergo additions, extensions and changes over time as required by the borrowers to accommodate growing demand of habitable areas, living, storing, economic activities etc.


Grameen Bank should reconsider its universalised model of house-types, to the adoption of tradition/vernacular typologies based on different contexts/regions. This will prevent our perpetual earthen valley from turning to be a silicon valley (!) of tin-roofed settlements. The impending rural landscape down the end of this century will be able to avert further additions of millions of silver dots into its traditional settings. The variety can be achieved by developing different region-based model house-types with the help of proposed counselling body. Grameen Banks popular concern over their choice of CI sheet as a sole roof material is not overlooked here. The concern is known to all that the Grameen Bank developed their model initially to be effective against water and flood. The need for developing more of place-responsive models against the present single prototypical model not to derelict their concern regarding the durability, asset value, resale value of the materials but to help sustain the vernacular heritage of Bengals rural settlement pattern.

Fig. 7 A village in Dinajpur and views of external and internal courts of a rural home in the village. Walling materials used in this region are prediminantly mud. Courtesy: Architecture+Design, 1991

Now the obvious doubt can be raised regarding the inherent vulnerability of some traditional practices against water and flood. But this is not an impossible issue to be resolved. The aim of the counselling body will be not to replicate the existing practices but to innovate and design a synthesised typologies that can respond to the question of belonging to the soil (vernacular, the indigenous) and those issues of vulnerability. The task of developing innovations and evolving the potential paradigms of Grameen Bank housing model is believed to be very much within the jurisdiction of the repertoire of design professionals and others of this soil. Now it is the Grameen Bank who can actually initiate to seek for

consultation of the professionals to achieve total success in their mission of sheltering the rural poor.


Morphology of Settlements
Crucial components in morphology of settlements such as hierarchy of spacing of of settlements, features like densities water and relationship physical bodies,

vegetation, topography, should be incorporated.

Fig. 8 Belapur Housing, New Bombay, although the context is urban, yet a classic example of cluster arrangment developed from the spatial hierarchy that continues from the basic unit through the courtyards until one reaches the larger community area.

The cohesiveness of the settlement form is the sense of a community shared by its dwellers. It results in a hierarchy of spaces as the norms of privacy and interaction define spatial character and connection. Certain problems are inherent in the present system of layout of the Grameen Bank scheme with the requirement of differentiated hierarchy of spaces. Instead of making provisions for the gradual extensions with split-levels, verandahs, common space for every homestead, the loanees can only add another house of prefabricated materials to be laid out to

form a rectangular chain severing every possible way of forming vernacular morphology of settlement pattern. The counselling body can help in this respect by developing not only the type of basic unit, but also the synthesised outcome of the aspects of planning its scale, hierarchy, organisation and, above all, the peoples use of space.


Overall Settlement Form

The prime objective of Grameen Bank Housing

Programme should shift its focus into the creation of an integrated rural habitat, compatible with the lifestyle and cultural background of the place. The counselling body should make provision for planning not only considering affordability, marketability and spatial parameters, but also the activities of traditional living in the form of overall settlement patterns and forms that would emerge as a response to the perennial changing process of the rural scene. Grameen Bank should focus the need to prepare an integrated settlement pattern ensuring consideration of all aspects of planning and design at a higher level of expertise comprising the counselling body members of different field. Like the design of a number of basic model houses ensuring imageability, flexibility and variety based on different region, different models of cluster arrangements of several sizes may be worked out, with parallel counselling feedback. With the Bhita loan policy in existence, Grameen Bank can easily initiate and incorporate the Overall Settlement Form concept by developing variegated arena of region based house-types and their integral cluster arrangements.

Fig. 9 Traditional ruaral vocabulary of spatial arrangement

Incorporating design objectives with the present policy Grameen Bank can achieve its ultimate social and economic objectives and can create a vibrant, well-


designed and well-integrated future rural landscape of Bangladesh. In fact, after the success as a financial institution, the professionals expects something more to be done in the field of physical cum socio-cultural environment. The designer-planners task is to foresee development. Their vision arise through contextual means, with regional bearing. It is wrong to device a particular structural input for a generalised context. The purpose of bringing uniqueness in the scheme of housing delivery system for the rural poor has to fail in the expected growth of development. The intention of the whole discussion and suggestions recommended is, to consider the design of the rural settlements for the context in its absolute terms of locale, soil, people and culture. Grameen Bank should shift its focus from playing the role of a provider to a facilitator. It should act as more of a reference for approach and concern than a specific solution for universal application. Housing the rural poor as a concern is universal, but not the solution. Solutions must emerge out of a particular context.


1. Shah, Kirtee. (Hon. Director of Ahmedabad Study Action Group, India), a letter written to Prof. Muhammad Yunus, Managing Director, Grameen Bank., August, 1995 2. Ali, M. M., Rural Housing, Department of Architecture, Bangladesh University of Engineering & Technology, Dhaka, 1990 3. Islam, Nazrul., Chowdhury, A. Islam., and Ali, Khadem., Evaluation of the Grameen Bank Housing Programme, CUS, University of Dhaka, July, 1989 4. Indian Architect & Builder, In Search of Excellence: The 1989 Aga Khan Awards for Architecture, Vol. 3, No. 6, India, February, 1990 5. Azim, Firdous., Bangladesh Building the Nation, Architecture of SAARC Nations (Architecture + Design), Media Transasia (I) Pvt Ltd, New Delhi, December, 1991