The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Housing as a verb: Treasuring the Legacy of John Turner

17 January 2024, 4:30 pm–6:30 pm

Housing in the El Ermitaño settlement, Lima, Peru, taken by John Turner as part of his research in 1963. Photograph: John FC Turner.

Join us for a DPU70 Dialogues in Development in commemoration of the work of John Turner.

Event Information

Open to





Alexander Macfarlane


Lecture Theatre 421
Roberts Building
Torrington Place
United Kingdom

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Headshot of John FC Turner.
 This DPU70 Dialogues in Development is a commemoration of the work of John Turner, who worked in the DPU from 1976 to 1982, but whose legacy is global and goes far beyond his time with us. He was a pioneer in the field of housing across the urban global South, challenging the dominant mode of state housing provision in the late 1960s.

His recognition of people as place-makers and a resource in the provision of their own housing was in stark contrast to the wholesale eviction of informal settlements practiced by many governments at the time. Furthermore, his promulgation of community-led and incremental housing development influenced international agencies and governments in a new generation of housing policies in the 1970s and 80s.

While recognising the need to explore the scaling up of housing solutions, John Turner did not see the production of state-led social housing projects and programmes as an appropriate response, advocating instead for the social control of ordinary citizens to realise their right to adequate housing.

This session will build on his ideas and practices, exploring his contributions to our teaching, research, capacity building and advisory work over time and their relevance to address the housing challenges that so many cities and urban areas face today. 


Prof Adriana Allen, Professor of Development Planning and Urban Sustainability, DPU, UCL and Former President, Habitat International Coalition (HIC) (Dec 2019- Dec 2023)


Professor Kathrin Golda-Pongratz, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya

Professor Golda-Pongratz will show short clips from two films made in self-built settlements in Lima, Peru: A Roof of my Own, United Nations TV, Scriptwriter and consultant: John F C Turner (1964) and Ciudad infinita - Voces de El Ermitaño, Kathrin Golda-Pongratz (2018)

Emeritus Professor Patrick Wakely, The Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU)

Gautam Bhan, Indian Institute of Human Settlements - IIHS

Tim Wickson, The Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU)

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