SIGUS – Special Interest Group in Urban Settlement

The Special Interest Group in Urban Settlement (SIGUS) links housing and community interests in the Department of Architecture and Department of Urban Studies, focusing on developing areas worldwide. SIGUS explores the new professionalism emerging for architects and planners, and concentrates on service, participation and non-traditional client groups. We offer workshops and short courses, and carry out research and outreach programs stressing participatory methods in promoting affordable and equitable housing. Established in 1984, SIGUS grew out of the rethinking of method, practice, and teaching driven by the rapidly expanding informal sector in both developing and developed countries.

SIGUS benefits from its extensive international links with practitioners, professionals, and faculty in governments, research institutions, NGOs, professional firms, and other academic institutions. These strong connections provide access to state-of-the-art practice, and support collaborative engagement in a wide range of activities.


SIGUS is coordinated by Dr.-Ing Reinhard Goethert and supported by student assistants from the Department of Architecture and Department of Urban Studies and Planning. The group is supported by faculty from throughout the MIT community in response to specific program demands.


SIGUS grew out of the Urban Settlement Design Program (USDP), a 2-year second professional degree program, initiated in 1965 with a grant from the Ford Foundation. Horacio Caminos, John F.C. Turner, and John Steffian were the founding faculty.

An alumnus writes. "The Special Interest Group in Urban Settlement (SIGUS) has been the world's forefront research engine in development studies for almost 4 decades. It's focus on developing areas worldwide makes the program one of the world's most prominent in an interdisciplinary study of physical planning and design, with practical focus and 'hands-on' approach which is the landmark of SIGUS. Alumni from this program have gone to become very successful professionals in the field making a "real difference" to the world at large. For an institution devoted to serve public needs like MIT, the importance of SIGUS marks a milestone of MIT's dynamic intellectual contribution."

School of Architecture and Planning, MIT, Room 10-322
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