Three architectural students at the Architectural Association in London, UK founded Development Workshop (DW) in 1973. The two remaining founding members are active in DW today.

During a field trip in Egypt, these DW founders worked with Hassan Fathy, an Egyptian pioneer architect who had been working since 1930 to show that it is possible to build for the poor, cheaply and humanely, by helping them to build for themselves. He advocated using popular architecture to improve the living conditions of the rural poor and his efforts inspired the early work of DW. See our Featured Programme - Old and New Gourna Egypt.

In 1974, DW worked for the Government of Oman to study how that country’s indigenous architecture could be developed as the country entered the "modern" era. It inspired what became a seminal publication and exhibition ’Indigenous building and the Third World’. See our Featured Programme - Indigenous building of Oman 1973 survey.

In 1974 the DW team joined an innovative regional development project in the predominantly rural region of Lorestan in Iran. From 1974 to 1979 DW developed a more holistic approach to human settlement systems and settlement planning in the region. This included rural industries, rural water supply, building technology and training. The emphasis was on developing local resources and local capacities to address local problems and opportunities. See our Featured Programme - Luristan and Selseleh Integrated Development Project (SIDP).

After the Iran revolution DW was incorporated as a not -for-profit organisation in Canada in 1981 and the geographical focus of DW expanded.

There are today two main autonomous offices: DW France and DW Angola, both which operate under the same broad mission statement. Founding DW member Allan Cain established DW's office in Angola in 1981. Founding DW member John Norton established DW's office in France in 1985, working principally in South East Asia and West Africa.


In 1992 DW's Woodless Construction Programme in the Niger was awarded the Habitat Scroll of Honour Award, initiated by the UN Centre for Human Settlements. In 1998, the Building and Social Housing Foundation presented the World Habitat Award to DW’s programme for the ‘Promotion of Woodless Construction in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger’. See our Featured Programme - Woodless Construction.

In 1996, the Sambizanga Community Upgrading Programme in Luanda, Angola, was selected as one of the Best 100 Practices at Habitat II, the UN Conference on Human Settlements. See our Featured Programme - Project Sambizanga

This photo: Allan Cain, Omar el Farouk, John Norton and Farokh Afshar, driving from Oman
to Dubai with a stop in Burami, 1973.

Top photo: Marketplace in New Gourna, Egypt, 1973.