Rethinking Soviet Era mass housing in Kazakhstan

Keywords: renovation, mass housing, housing adaptation, urban renewal, regeneration


Mass high-rise, tenement housing in former Soviet bloc countries, built within the modernist genre, has proved to be problematical throughout the history of architecture and urban planning. This study addresses features of mass housing in the former Soviet state of Kazakhstan, in which planning, artistic, psychological, social, and urban aspects of housing have resulted in the inhabitants’ diminished quality of life. The study’s findings reveal specific critical problems regarding typical tenements in Kazakhstan for their inhabitants and for the urban environments they occupy. An interdisciplinary approach reveals both negative and positive characteristics of various types of Kazakh mass tenement housing, with an emphasis on the former. The paper addresses some potentialities and recommendations for renovation that would enhance the quality of life in the urban setting.


Alexander, C. (2002). The nature of order: The phenomenon of life. Taylor & Francis.

Amick, D. J., Kviz, F. J. (1974). Density, building type, and social integration in public housing projects. Man-Environment Systems, 4, pp. 187-190.

Appleyard, D., Lintell, M. (1972). The Environmental Quality of City Streets. Journal of the American Institute of Planners, JAIP, Vol. 38, No. 2, pp. 84-101.

Bagley, C. (1974). The Built Environment as an Influence on Personality and Social Behaviour: A Spatial Study. In D. Canter, T. Lee (Eds.), Psychology and the built environment. London: Wiley, pp. 156-162.

Barros, P., Fat, L. N., Garcia, L. M., Slovic, A. D., Thomopoulos, N., de Sa, T. H., Mindell, J. S. (2019). Social consequences and mental health outcomes of living in high-rise residential buildings and the influence of planning, urban design and architectural decisions: A systematic review, Cities, Vol. 93, pp. 263-272.

Black, X. M., Neill, C. (2014). Experience and expression of social isolation by inner-city high-rise residents, Housing, Care and Support, Vol. 17, No. 3, pp. 151-166.

Bureau of National statistics (2022). On the housing stock / Statistical compilation. Nur-Sultan: Agency for Strategic planning and reforms of the Republic of Kazakhstan

Clark, C., Myron, R., Stansfeld, S., Candy, B. (2007). A systematic review of the evidence on the effect of the built and physical environment on mental health, Journal of Public Mental Health, No. 6, pp. 14–27. https://doi:10.1108/17465729200700011

Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) (1996). The Charter of the New Urbanism, Washington, DC: Congress for the New Urbanism [online]. [Accessed: 02 Jun 2022].

Danilov, V., Danilova, M., Mardanov, A. (2004). Rekonstrukcija zhilishhnogo fonda na sovremennom jetape (in Russian), Science and technology of Kazakhstan, Vol. 2, pp. 62-66.

Duany, A., J. Speck (2009). The smart growth manual. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Ellard, C. (2015). Places of the heart: The psychogeography of everyday life. Bellevue literary press.

Freeman, H. (1993). Mental health and high-rise housing. In: R. Burridge, D. Ormandy (Eds.), Unhealthy Housing, Research, remedies and reform. London: Chapman and Hall, pp. 168-190.

Fujiwara, T., Michikawa, T., Suzuki, K., Takebayashi, T., Yamagata, Z. (2013). Impact of high-rise living on children’s development and health: A critical review of literature. Yamanashi Med J, Vol. 28, No. 2, pp. 49-57.

Gehl, J. (2010). Cities for people. Washington, D.C.: Island Press.

Gehl, J. (2011). Life between buildings (6th ed.). Washington, D.C.: Island Press.

Gifford, R. (2007). The consequences of living in high-rise buildings. Architectural science review, Vol. 50, No. 1, pp. 2-17.

Glaudinov B., Seidalin M., Karpykov A. (1987) Arhitektura Sovetskogo Kazahstana (in Russian). Moscow: Stroyizdat.

Heidegger, M. (1971). Building dwelling thinking. Poetry, language, thought. Trans. Albert Hofstadter. New York: Harper Colophon.

Jacobs, A., Appleyard, D. (1987). Toward an urban design manifesto. Journal of the American planning association, Vol. 53, No. 1, pp. 112-120.

Jacobs, J. (1961). The death and life of great American cities. New York: Random House.

Jaksch, S., Franke, A., Österreicher, D., Treberspurg, M. (2016). A systematic approach to sustainable urban densification using prefabricated timber-based attic extension modules. Energy Procedia, No. 96, pp. 638-649.

Kuspangaliev, B. (2000). Arhitektura gorodskogo zhilishha Kazahstana (in Russian). Almaty: QazBSQA, 184.

Kuspangaliyev, B., Samoilov, K. (2021). Razvitie arhitektury Kazahstana na rubezhe tysjacheletij (in Russian), Academia. Architecture and Construction, Vol. 2, pp. 16–24.

Kuusk, K., Kalamees, T. (2016). Estonian grant scheme for renovating apartment buildings. Energy Procedia, No. 96, pp. 628-637.

Larcombe, D. L., van Etten, E., Logan, A., Prescott, S. L., Horwitz, P. (2019). High-Rise apartments and urban mental health—historical and contemporary views, Challenges, Vol. 10, No. 2, p. 34.

Lyle, J. (1985). Design for human ecosystems: Landscapes, Land Use, and Natural Resources. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Lyle, J. (1994). Regenerative design for sustainable development. New York: John Wiley.

Maloyan, G. (2004). Osnovy gradostroitel'stva: Uchebnoe posobie (in Russian). Moscow: Association of Construction Universities.

McHarg, I. (1969). Design with nature. Garden City, N.Y.: The Natural History Press.

Meuser, P., Zadorin, D. (2015). Towards a Typology of Soviet Mass Housing. Berlin: DOM. Alexander.

Mumford, L. (1962). The case against modern architecture. Architectural Record. v 131. No. 4, pp. 155-162.

Murzabayeva, K., Lapshina, E., Tuyakayeva, A. (2022). Modernization of the Living Environment Space Using the Example of an Urban Array of Residential Buildings from the Soviet Period in Almaty, Buildings, Vol.12, No. 7, 1042.

Newman, O. (1973). Defensible Space. New York: Macmillan.

Newman, O. (1980). Whose failure is modern architecture? In: B. Mikellides (Ed.), Architecture for people, New York: Holt. Rinehart & Winston, pp. 44-58.

Nolen, J. (2005). New towns for old: achievements in civic improvements in some American small towns and neighborhoods. Boston: University of Massachusetts Press.

Oda, M., Taniguchi, K., Wen, M. Z., Higurashi, M. (1989). Symposium: Environment and Human Behavior (II) Effects of High-rise Living on Physical and Mental Development of Children, Journal of human ergology, Vol. 18, No. 2, pp. 231-235.

Panczak, R., Galobardes, B., Spoerri, A., Zwahlen, M., Egger, M. (2013). High life in the sky? Mortality by floor of residence in Switzerland, European journal of epidemiology, No. 28, pp. 453-462.

Relph, E. (1976). Place and placelessness. (Vol. 67). London: Pion.

Rosenbaum, J. E., Reynolds, L., DeLuca, S. (2002). How do places matter? The geography of opportunity, self-efficacy and a look inside the black box of residential mobility, Housing studies, Vol. 17, No. 1, pp. 71-82.

Salingaros, N. (2014). Algorithmic Sustainable Design: Twelve Lectures On Architecture. Portland, Oregon, USA: Sustasis Foundation.

Samoilov, K. (2004). Arhitektura Kazakhstana ХХ veka (razvitie arhitekturno-hudozhestvennyh form) (in Russian). Moskva-Almaty: MarĪ -dizaĭn.

Sarzhanov, N., Samoilov, K. (2019). Features of interpretation of the traditional life of the people of Kazakhstan in the modern housing, Science and education today, Vol. 11, pp. 5-6.

Steiner, F. (2016). Human ecology: how nature and culture shape our world. Washington, D.C.: Island Press.

Woodman, E. (2015). Exemplary Housing Estate Regeneration in Europe. London: AJ Publishing.

Review Paper