Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

This site uses cookies. By using our services, you agree to our cookie use.
Learn more here.

Competition: Maseru low-income housing, Lestho

An open international contest has been announced for a prototype $3,750 home for low-income families in Lesotho, Africa (Deadline: 30 September)

Open to local and international students and graduates from the last five years – the competition seeks innovative proposals for a sustainable and affordable which could be constructed on any 48m² site within the capital city of Maseru.

The Rise in the City competition – backed by architectural charity RISE, BOND events and Lesotho’s ministries of local government and public works – aims to identify a new prototype housing for the mountainous country which is entirely surrounded by South Africa and experiences extreme ranges of temperature.

Maseru, Lestho

Maseru, Lestho

Maseru, Lestho

According to the brief: ‘We are inviting all innovative problem solvers in the built environment to design an affordable housing prototype in an effort to curb Lesotho’s housing problem in an environment challenged by: increased urban migration, climate change and scarcity of resources, limited accessible land due to its topography - Lesotho is just 30,000 square kilometres and is mostly highlands and mountains.

‘The competition aims to attract a global audience to design a low-income urban housing prototype for Maseru, Lesotho’s capital. If you are looking for an opportunity to showcase your skills and talent on a global scale which could kick-start a rewarding career, then this is the competition for you.’

Lesotho is a small mountainous country of around 2 million inhabitants and completely enclaved by South Africa. The country suffers from a housing affordability crisis and around 70 per cent of the population earn less than $70 per month.

The competition is organised by architectural charity RISE in partnership with BOND Events, an international organisation which aims to boost face-to-face collaboration between architects and clients from around the world.

RISE was founded in 2016 by Daniela Gusman to promote sustainable small social businesses in sub-Saharan African communities. The call for concepts is RISE’s second major project developed in collaboration with BOND in Lesotho in the past year.

Maseru, Lestho

Maseru, Lestho

Maseru, Lestho

The two organisations are working with 20 local students and 10 international students as part of an initiative called ’in loco: Lesotho’ to overhaul facilities at the God’s Love Centre Orphanage - a project due to complete later this month.

The latest contest is limited to 100 entries and seeks proposals for a low-cost sustainable 48m² home suitable for households on a combined annual income of around $1,800.

Digital submissions must include up to six A3-sized pages of concepts along with a 100-word summary statement. A single A4 sheet featuring a budget breakdown and an A1-sized display board will also be required.

The competition language is English and results will be announced in January 2019 with the top ten entries featuring in a public exhibition.

One overall international winner will receive a one-week trip to Lesotho to develop the feasibility of their concept while one overall local winner will participate in a one-week skills workshop in Africa.

How to apply


The deadline for registrations is 30 September and submissions must be completed by 15 December


There is no entry fee

Contact details

Daniela Gusman

Tel: +266 5946 0734

View the competition website for more information

Q&A with Daniela Gusman

The organisers discuss their ambitions for the competition

The RISE team

The RISE team

The RISE team

Why are your holding an international contest for affordable urban housing in Lesotho for less than $3,750?

Increased urban migration is a problem faced by most emerging (and established) cities throughout the world. During our work in Lesotho, through the in ‘loco programme’ (which focuses on capacity building of young local talent) we became aware of Lesotho government’s urban needs and urban policy which requires that 14 houses be built per day to cater for the growing needs of this new urban population. A standard architect and client relationship, especially bearing in mind the limited resources of the clients (according to the National Housing Policy the majority of the working population can only afford a dwelling costing $3,750), would never be able to respond to this.

Whilst a participatory engagement and design process would have been our preferred way forward, the scale and need of the problem does not allow us to engage in such an approach straight away, so the competition, which invites young talent (both local and international) to reflect on the challenges and solutions, will hopefully offer several models and ideas which can then become part of the wider debate about Lesotho’s urban housing strategy.

Having local and international participants also widens such debate and allows young local architects to be confronted and challenged by different mindsets and ideas, something which is essential to what rise and in loco are all about; promoting local talent and cultural exchange.

What is your vision for this new housing?

Above all we want these housing models to be affordable and sustainable. In a country where 70 per cent of the working population earns less than $70 per month, it is very important that as designers we come up with ideas that the average person can build and maintain.

The contest site size is 48m² based on the recommendation by the Department of Housing. We decided not to limit the competition to one single site, but are inviting participants to consider the problem of urban housing needs from a macro perspective, considering designs, strategies and typologies that can be replicated throughout the country.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

The competition is aimed at students and young graduates who have completed their architecture studies not more than five years ago, as we believe that these are challenges that younger generations of architects must consider in today’s practice. Architecture is about more than ‘image making’, architecture has a social role which we really want to promote. Thanks to rise’s co-founder BOND Events, we have access to a large network of international architecture firms which we are leveraging to offer mentorship and critique the student entry.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

Our first cohort of ‘in loco’ fellows is soon coming to an end. The design and build project they have been engaged with is due for completion by the end of the year, and we are extremely proud of what we’ve managed to achieve in such a short period of time. We are currently studying several collaborations with entrepreneurs, government and other NGOs and believe there’s a very exciting future ahead of us. Architecture and construction are rarely the solution, but the spaces they create can be the catalyst for several changes for the better in people’s lives.

Are there any other recent affordable housing projects you have been impressed by?

We are taking ‘affordable’ to a whole new level here. The overall construction cost of the solutions we are after is much lower than anything else we’ve looked at in the past, but we are obviously inspired by the work done by Alejandro Aravena and Elemental in their incremental housing projects in Chile, or the $20k house research carried out by the design and build workshop of the Rural Studio in Alabama, and hope these will inspire the young designers who will enter the competition.