3. Housing; Soviet-style urban planning — architectural type of apartment complexes

Ulaanbaatar is regarded to be a variation of the Soviet-style planning in Central Asia, since the monumental public buildings and concrete housing are believed to ‘bear no relation, architecturally or functionally, to the country’s past’ (Otgonenkh, 2015).

There are several types of apartment complexes built in the socialist times that were still in use nowadays. One of them is the five-storied apartment complex which is constructed in 1979. The complex is mainly built by bricks, located in an area formerly occupied by facilities of the Ministry of Railroads. The units in the block was designed to surround the staircase, with 12 units per storey; 4 around each staircase. After the democratic revolution in 1992, the Mongolian took hold of the ownership and then later developed a committee to manage.

The other type of residential complex is four-storied, located near the main road in the central commercial area. Built in 1960, the complex has a wooden structural frame and wooden floor, ceiling, roof finish in addition to the brick construction. This later type was also designed surrounding the staircase, however, it has varying number of units around it. Since the two types of collective housing was built in the socialist era, the complex included outdoor common space of 54.7m2 and 89.3m2 per unit respectively (Hasegawa, Kawagishi, Gongchigbat, & Nakanishi, 2004).

The above mentioned concrete apartment blocks in Ulaanbaatar were built in 1940s to 1950s Soviet style, which were originally designed for the minor non-nomadic population. However, due to the recent changes in socio-political aspect, job opportunities were concentrated at the city center, therefore those former affordable housing now became prime residential district for the middle-upper class citizens.


The Wrestling Palace has the form of traditional Ger, while the apartment complex to the left is in typical communist style (photo by Rick Millier)
The Wrestling Palace has the form of traditional Ger, while the apartment complex to the left is in typical communist style (photo by Rick Millier)

The housing transformation of the capital is mainly based on the economic policy, such that provided flexible pricing mechanism under the market economy, in comparison to the previous planned communism way of allocating housing. Therefore, it can be observed that some of the street-level apartments were converted to commercial use. Together with the privatization of property, new commercial and housing projects began to compete for spaces in the city center. For example, American-style private housing emerges in the capital center and some even formed new communities at the urban fringe within 20km to the center after this new land policy was implemented (Otgonenkh, 2015). This phenomenon led to drastic increment of property prices hence the socio-spatial difference within the capital city. The housing transformation also contributed to the emergence of Ger district, acting as a temporary solution for the poorer class.

It was proposed that the Ulaanbaatar Master Plan 2020 will incorporate a well-developed plan with appropriate infrastructure, defined land-use zoning and housing policies for all Mongolian citizens (Otgonenkh, 2015). Such policy aimed for improvement to the future living standard of the respective region.




Hasegawa, M., Kawagishi, U., Gongchigbat, I., & Nakanishi, T. (2004, May). Study on the Living Space Planning in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia – Common Spaces in Apartment Complexes -. Journal of Asian Architecture and Building Engineering, 3(1), 133-140.

Otgonenkh, U. (2015). Building modern Mongolia, a review on the Ulaanbaatar City Master Plan 2020. Chinese Culture University.


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