Mohamed Kamal El Sayed Ibrahim, Azza (2006-10). Morphological themes of informal housing in Colonias: impacts of sociocultural identity on Webb County housing form. Master's Thesis. Thesis uri icon


  • Informal settlements are a form of housing found in many parts of the world. Self-help housing in informal settlements has different influences that are denoted in the customs and preferences of the residents, which in turn, are reflected on the elements of house exteriors as well as its interior. Colonias in the U.S-Mexico border region are a model of informal settlements. The purpose of this study is to analyze the social and cultural influences on housing fronts in Webb County Colonias. The study focuses on investigating traditional features, vernacular forms, building rituals, and social features as they relate to the morphology of house fronts and their production. The housing model of Geddes and Bertalanffy explained by Turner (1972) was the premise of establishing the argument of this study. A mixed-method approach was used in data gathering from the following three Colonias: Los Altos, Larga Vista, and Rio Bravo. Utilized methods included image-based research through systematic random sampling of housing fronts in the Colonias, as well as a group-administered structured survey distributed during community monthly gathering for food distribution. The development of the research process and methodology incorporated the input of the local community and local leaders and volunteers assisted in its implementation. The study concluded that past and present experiences of Colonias residents have intense impacts on different aspects contributing to the themes comprising the morphology of Colonias housing fronts. A classical pattern of migration as well as maintained contact and continuous dialogue between residents and their kin were found to result in preserving the inherent native culture of the ColoniasAcA?A? residents and can thus be considered as core elements. This preservation of native culture was indicated by utilization of semi-private space, traditional roof forms, privacy and security elements, and building rituals. The study also identified additional secondary modified elements, represented by the lack of gates utilization as a measure of security. These core and modified elements coincide with the Geddes and Bertalanffy model and therefore it can be deduced that this model can be applied in the case of the Colonias.

publication date

  • August 2005