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By : Iftekhar Ahmed

Affordability and lifestyle choices in housing are critical to meet basic human needs for shelter, security and wellbeing. The meaning of a house for a particular group of people and what is ‘affordable’ for a particular community is the critical issue. Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, has greater population density and rate of expansion compared to almost any other mega cities of Asia. The historic core of the city known as old Dhaka is a combination of several traditional neighborhoods. Houses in these traditional neighborhoods are not only places to live, rather an integral unit of a social system, having a good mix of place of work and individual expression in living. They also show flexibility and adaptability (with more scope for personalization and individual life style choices) compared to the contemporary housing stock. One of the success factors in these traditional houses is the healthy mix of the income ranges to avoid a ghetto effect of low cost housing. The recent rapid urbanization has led to a discontinuity of the traditional housing form of old Dhaka, leading to a disintegration of the mix of lifestyle choices and affordability. Following popular market trends, they are often replaced by housing blocks in a higher density ignoring the need for a diverse mix. This paper studies the traditional housing of old Dhaka with two case study neighborhoods. Several elements of housing like the common price, materials and construction, space layout, scale, social space, facades, street interface, etc are selected for a qualitative study. Local residents interview, archival records, maps, Plans, figure-ground, aerial images are used to analyze, identify and demonstrate the elements that made them socio-culturally sustainable and affordable for the community. With the analysis, lessons from the traditional housing form that may contribute to the new housing in Dhaka are identified.
Keywords:Traditional Housing,Lifestyle Choices, Affordability, Old Dhaka.

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