Ger Plug-In

Ger Plug-In

Rural Urban Framework

Courtesy Rural Urban Framework (RUF).

October 29, 2017
Ger Plug-In
Affordable housing prototype for Ulaanbaatar’s Ger Districts

Zulaa, age 26, and Urangua, 33, live in a traditional Mongolian ger, a portable structure made of timber, felt and canvas. They live in on the edge of Bayankhoshur, one of Ulaanbaatar’s ger districts—sprawling settlements comprised of a mixture of gers and low-cost detached homes.

Like other migrants they have had to transition from nomadic to sedentary living. In the process they are faced with many adjustments. They now live in close proximity to others, rely on buses and taxis for transportation, need money to buy goods and pay for services, generate waste and our confronted with debilitating air and ground pollution. There is no running water and they have to collect and pay for water from the local water kiosk.  There are no sewage systems so they have dug a 2m deep pit latrine on their plot. In the extreme winter, with temperatures reaching -40 degrees Celsius, the couple has to light a coal fire at least three times a day, expending almost 1/3 of their monthly income.

The couple is far from unique. It is estimated that over 700,000 people live in the ger districts, accounting for over 60% of the city’s population. The numbers are constantly growing with new migrants moving from the countryside to the city daily. It is likely the only city in the world where the poorest people own the majority of the land. 

The city has expensive new development plans to bring services and apartments to the residents of the ger districts. However, they do not reach the fringe areas where Zulaa and Urangua live. These are the most rapidly expanding areas and so a more agile strategy that can ameliorate the pressing problems of the ger districts effectively and quickly is urgently required.  The project tackles the problem from the basic unit of habitation—the one thing that all residents own—the ger itself.

The Ger Plug-In is conceived as being in-between a ger and a house. Designed for adaptation and growth with embedded environmental systems, the aim is to “seed” a transformation process that can lead to the creation of off-grid infrastructural networks.

The Ger Plug-in is designed as a thickened infrastructural wall containing water and septic tanks and heating systems that the ger plugs into. By hybridising the ger with essential infrastructure, it provides a new form of urbanism. Rather than accepting generic forms of brick houses, so typical in developing regions, the project creates a new typology of affordable housing.

It is an emergent form: located in tradition yet positioned strategically for the future. Over time, the unique Mongolian ger is not lost, but becomes the active agent of Ulaanbaatar’s evolution into a city of nomads. 


Design: Joshua Bolchover (Rural Urban Framework, The University of Hong Kong)

Project Team: Ben Hayes, Jersey Poon, Mathew Hung

Project Partner: GerHub: Badruun Gardi and Enkhjin Batjargal

Contractor: ZAG Group LLC: Erdembileg Nemekhbaatar

Cost: USD 12,000

Date: completed September 2017

Donor: The Oyun Foundation

Contact: jpbarch [​at​]

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October 29, 2017

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