People begin by building a first floor with this simple concrete-steel grid and leave the structure open on the roof to retain the possibility for further building—when the finances are there, the family grows, whenever it becomes possible or necessary. But this basic structure is virtually a replica of the Maison Dom-ino developed by Le Corbusier in 1914–15, which used simple reinforced concrete pillars as part of an industrialized building process influenced by the mass production of goods. Corbusier developed the Maison Dom-ino as a basic building prototype for mass-produced housing with freestanding pillars and rigid floors. As we can see, his ideas became not only a foundation for the modernist approach to architecture in general, but also for self-builders in the global South. Whether or not these are the best solutions for responding to weather and temperature remains an open question, but in terms of usable hardware, these concepts have become a form of common property, a part of the public domain.

Le Corbusier. Structural skeleton of Maison Dom-ino, 1914-15.

Self-built neighborhood in Cairo, 2009. A simple steel and concrete pillar grid structure reminiscent of Le Corbusier’s Maison Dom-ino model. Filled with brick stones, a growing house structure becomes adaptable to the needs and finances of its inhabitants. Cairo, 2009. Photo: Marion von Osten.

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