To Be Continued...

Housing, Design and Self-Determination


  • Nelson Mota TU Delft, Architecture and the Built Environment


Self-help housing is a timeless social practice to satisfy people’s need for shelter. In broad terms, it can be defined as an activity where citizens, individually or collectively, develop a great deal of self-determination in housing production. It does not mean, however, that it implies complete autonomy or autarky. In effect, self-help housing is far from a monolithic category. In pre-capitalist societies it was pervasive and arguably the most common form of housing provision. With the emergence and rise of the capitalist mode of production in Western societies, providing proper living conditions became a key element to secure the reproduction of the labour force necessary to support industrial development and capital accumulation. This was then the heyday of philanthropic ventures promoted by bourgeois reformers to provide decent housing for the working class. Ever since, in periods of capitalist expansion, self-help housing in the urbanized world has been swiftly replaced by marketbased housing production. In periods of crisis of capitalism, however, self-help housing returned recurrently. This time, however, it was the bureaucratic apparatus of the state and its extensions that exploited it, thus creating the so-called aided self-help, or in more actual terms, assisted self-help housing. In central Europe, for example, this was the case after the Franco-German war of 1870-1871, in the aftermath of the First World War, the Great Depression in the 1930s, in the aftermath of the Second World War, the first oil shock of 1973, and more recently the financial crisis that started in 2008.

Author Biography

Nelson Mota, TU Delft, Architecture and the Built Environment

Nelson Mota is Associate Professor of Architecture at Delft University of Technology. He holds a professional degree in Architecture (1998) and an advanced master in Architecture, Territory and Memory (2006) from the University of Coimbra (Portugal) and a PhD (2014) from Delft University of Technology. Nelson is a founding partner of the architectural office comoco arquitectos. He is the author of the book A Arquitectura do Quotidiano (The Architecture of the Everyday) published in 2010, and co-editor of Footprint 17: “The ‘Bread & Butter’ of Architecture: Investigating Everyday Practices” ( 2015), Joelho 8: “Ideas and Practices for the European City” (2017), and Footprint 24: “The Architecture of Housing after the Neoliberal Turn” (2019). Nelson is the leader of the research group Global Housing and coordinator of the Global Housing educational program at the TU Delft. He is  member of the editorial board of the academic journal Footprint and DASH.