Community Planning: Special features: From the John FC Turner Archive
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  • A Roof Of My Own

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is delighted to feature an important selection of free downloadable papers and articles by and about John Turner's pioneering and influential work on housing in development.

John Turner
John F C Turner, born in 1927, has been involved for 40 years in developing the theory, practice and tools for self-managed home and neighbourhood building - in Peru, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Turner graduated in architecture from the Architectural Association in London in 1954 and worked in Peru for eight years from 1957, mainly on the advocacy and design of community action and self-help programmes in villages and urban squatter settlements. From 1965 he was for two years a Research Associate at the Joint Centre for Urban Studies of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University and then lectured at MIT until 1973. Returning to London, he was a lecturer at the Architectural Association and the Development Planning Unit, University College London, until 1983, when he resigned to devote himself full-time to his non-profit consultancy AHAS.

During these years, Turner's many publications have had a great influence on housing policies worldwide. They include: Uncontrolled Urban Settlement: Problems and Policies, first published in 1966; and the books Freedom to Build, dweller control of the housing process (with Robert Fichter, Macmillan, 1972), and Housing by People: Towards autonomy in building environments (Marion Boyars, 1976).

From 1983 through 1986, Turner was coordinator of the Habitat International Coalition's NGO project for the UN International Year of Shelter for the Homeless (1987). Under this project, a global survey of local initiatives for home and neighbourhood improvement led to the report Building Community: A Third World Case Book, edited by Turner's wife, Bertha, and for which he wrote the introduction and conclusions.

Since his move from London to the south-coast town of Hastings in 1989, Turner has worked as a Trustee of the Hastings Trust, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the sustainable development of the town. This has provided him with an opportunity to confront the social and economic consequences of corporate urban-industrialism on his own home ground. Convinced that a sustainable civilisation has to be founded on local economies, he has concluded that a liveable future depends as much on regenerating the community base of the dominant industrial nations as on strengthening the surviving community-base of the exploited nations. He is concentrating his efforts on the search for two neglected elements and their dissemination: the 'tools for building community', so many of which are widely transferable, and the universal principles which guide successful adaptation.

All material listed in date order - oldest first.

Architecural Design 8 Cover
Dwelling Resources in South America,
Architectural Design 8, August 1963

Describing the problems that face South American countries in the field of housing: problems made daily more acute by population increases and movements causing an 'urban explosion' whose only precedent is that suffered by Europe in the second half of the nineteenth century.

San Juan Seminar Paper
A new view of the housing deficit,
San Juan seminar paper
Social Science Research Centre,
University of Puerto Rico,
Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, April 1966

Download as pdf

Ad August 1968
Architecture of Democracy,
Architectural Design, August 1967

This issue of AD responds to the question set by the editors. They recalled the issue of August 1963 which drew attention to the architecture-without-architects of the squatter settlements in the developing countries and which found, contrary to much popular opinion, that these serve a very positive function for their residents. Now, they ask, what lessons can we draw fron this which are relevant to the very different situation in which architects work in the developed nations.

Uncontrolled urban settlements: problems and policies,
Urbanisation: development policies and planning,
International Social Development Review, No. 1
Department of Economic and Social Affairs
United Nations, New York, 1968

Download article as pdf

Freedom to Build cover
Freedom to build,
dweller control of the housing process,

John F C Turner & Robert Fichter, eds.,
Collier Macmillan, New York, 1972

Download individual chapters as pdf
Chapter 6: The Reeducation of a Professional
Chapter 7: Housing as a Verb

riba journal No. 2 Feb 1974
Fits and Misfits of people's housing,
Freedom to Build

RIBA Journal, No. 2, February 1974

Download as pdf

Approaches to government-sponsored housing
Approaches to government-sponsored housing,
Reprinted from
Ekistics, Vol. 41, No. 242, January 1976

Download as pdf
Building Community
Building Community,
A Third World Case Book,

Ed. Bertha Turner,
Building Community Books, London, 1988

Building Community, Prelims.
Contents, Acknowledgements, Author's Preface and Foreword.
Human settlements of Zambia
Human Settlements of Zambia (HUZA), Lusaka.
NGO promotes community development.
Kebele 41
Kebele 41, Ethiopia.
Community-based urban development in Ethiopia.
Pozzolana Cement Project
Pozzolana Cement Project (PPCT), Ruhengeri.
A local alternative to Portland cement in Rwanda.
Tarime Rural Development Project
Tarime Rural Development Project (TARDEP).
Rural people improve their housing in Tanzania.
Ukanal Fé
Ukanal Fé, Oussuye, Casamance.
Young people develop their community in Senegal.
Baldia, Ethiopia.
Pakistani women lead a low-cost sanitation project.
Ganeshnagar, India..
Renters take over and tranform an Indian slum development.
Kebele 41
Kampung Banyu Urip, Indonesia.
Indonesians participate in inner-city settlement improvement.
Klong Toey
Klong Toey, Banhlkok.
A slum community's thirty-year struggle in Thailand.
Orangi Pilot Project
Orangi Pilot Project, Karachi..
A low-cost sewer system by low-income Pakistanis.
Saarland Village 1
Saarland Village 1, Greater Manila.
Philippino suatters become secure home owners.
Village Reconstruction Organisation
Village Reconstruction Organisation (VRO), Coromandel Coast.
Landless rural Indians build new villages.
Yayasan Sosial Soegiyapranata
Yayasan Sosial Soegiyapranata (YSS), Semarang.
New homes and improved lives for Indonesian scavengers.
Centro Co-operativista Uruguayo
Centro Co-operativista Uruguayo, Complejo Bulevar and Mesa 1, Montevideo.
High-rise management and low-rise self-build co-operatives.
El Augustino Zone III
El Augustino Zone III, Lima.
Peruvians redevelop their inner-city settlement.
Guerrero, Mexico City.
Tenement renters buy and rebuild their Mexico City homes.
Palo Alto Co-operative
Palo Alto Co-operative, Metropolitan Mexico.
Rural migrants secure housing in Mexico.
Villa Chaco Chico
Villa Chaco Chico, Córdoba.
Argentinians secure tenure and develop their settlement.
Villa El Salvador
Villa El Salvador, Atacongo, Lima.
Low-income Peruvians build a new township.
Women's Construction Collective
Women's Construction Collective (WCC), Kingston.
Skills and employment for Jamaican women.
Issues and Conclusions

A Roof of my Own, United Nations TV, 1964
black and white, 30 mins

Classic documentary on the development of squatter settlements on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. The film illustrates the early stages of “incremental development” initiated by low-income people and a pioneering government agency. This is the uncut version; both the President of Peru and the Brazilian generals insisted on cuts for the version broadcast at the time. The film was commissioned as a result of the 1963 issue of Architectural Design titled 'Dwelling Resources in South America'.

Executive Producer: George Movshom
Commentator: Alistair Cooke
Scriptwriter and consultant: John F C Turner
Camera: David Myers
Film Editor: George Scourby
Sound: Garth Kreem
Supervising Producer: Ben Park
Associate Producer: Ronald Fleher
Editorial Supervisor: Myra Levien
Re-record: Roy Werner
News Photos: 'Caretas', 'Expresso', Lima
Produced for the United States Broadcasters Committee for the United Nations.

Thanks: All material provided by John FC Turner. With grateful acknowledgement to Architectural Design, University of Puerto Rico, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Collier Macmillan, RIBA Journal, Ekistics and Building Community Books.

Untitled Document


The Building and Social Housing Foundation is pleased to support the promotion of John FC Turner’s legacy on housing at Habitat III.


Screenings of


Classic 1964 film on the development of squatter settlements on the outskirts of Lima, Peru, which had a profound influence on housing policy worldwide.
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2 October 2016,
El Ermitaño, Lima, Peru
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Link to facebook page

20 October 2016, 5.00pm
Urban Library, Habitat III, Quito, Ecuador
Event 1181606_Por una autonomía del Habitar
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Link to Habitat III website
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21 February 2017, 6.00pm
DPU, Bartlett, London
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Link to publisher

You can still buy a copy of
Building Community: A Third World Case Book
Last updated on: 28 September 2016