Designing for a Flow: Navigating Temporalities in Housing Considerations in Low-Income and Hazard-Prone Caribbean Contexts

A.M. Kuś*, Nelson Mota, Ellen van Bueren, Antonio Carmona Báez, Thijs Asselbergs

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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The urgency of addressing housing challenges in low-income areas is increasing due to widening socio-economic inequalities and the worsening impact of natural disasters. Saint Martin, a small Caribbean island, is struggling to provide affordable housing amidst hurricanes, floods, and heat waves. As a result, there has been a rise in self-organized housing units, which are built incrementally and are susceptible to risks. The main challenge is to balance durability, functionality, and esthetic appeal over time. Inspired by St. Martin’s self-organized units, this article explores housing considerations in low-income, hazard-prone contexts by emphasizing their temporalities. Integrating insights from a formative study, including a literature review and ethnographic research, the paper draws on Stewart Brand’s “Layers of Change” and the concept of “Flow”. The study identifies layers within self-organized units corresponding to durability, functionality, and esthetic appeal. It delves into their connection with building activities over time, unveiling the temporalities of housing considerations. This exploration leads to the proposition of “Designing for a Flow” as a novel design approach. Offering practical insights within a concise framework, the study provides nuanced perspectives on mitigating housing challenges in low-income and hazard-prone contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Article number327
Number of pages24
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2024


This research is a part of a research program titled Island(er)s at the Helm: Co-creating Sustainable and Inclusive Solutions for Social Adaptation to Climate Challenges in the (Dutch) Caribbean, which is supported by funding from The Dutch Research Council (NWO), file number NWOCA.2019.021. It is important to note that these funding institutions did not play a role in the design of the research or the writing of this paper. The opinions expressed in this paper are independent and do not necessarily represent the perspectives of the funding organizations.


  • incremental housing
  • low-income housing
  • resilient design
  • climate change
  • extreme weather
  • layers of change
  • Stewart Brand
  • sustainability


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