For thousands of years, Mongolians have been living in gers – circular structures of timber, felt, and canvas. Easy to disassemble, move, and reassemble in a matter of hours without any tools or fixings, the ger is the ideal dwelling for nomadic living on the Mongolian steppe. Yet, as the basic unit of habitation in Mongolia’s capital city, Ulaanbaatar, it has led to sprawling ger districts that lack basic urban infrastructure and contribute to toxic levels of pollution.

Becoming Urban tells the story of Ulaanbaatar’s ongoing transformation and reveals the challenges of making architecture in this context. Through urban analysis and a chronicle of working in the city’s ger districts, architect Joshua Bolchover brings to light their unique spatial characteristics and the urgency of ameliorating their current predicament. Putting forward designs that reimagine the ger with an aim toward responsible future growth, the book demonstrates an alternative form of practice and role for the architect.

The story told in this book is not just about Mongolia. How communities, planners, and politicians grapple with the effects of planetary urbanisation is one of the critical issues of the twenty-first century. The ways in which this process comes to be materialized and organized spatially, and by whom, will have profound ramifications for the climate and the social and economic makeup of our cities. In response to these urgent issues, this book advocates that architecture is a social act and affirms the architect’s vital contribution to the process of becoming urban.

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