In Greek and Roman times mentally handicapped children were regarded asuseless and were either killed or abondoned. In the Middle Ages mentally re-tarded people were also rejected. In modern Western culture on the otherhand, the mentally hadicapped are seen as normal people, albeit with(sometimes considerable) mental disabilities. The different approaches areclearly expressed in the way they are housed: from a nomadic existence inAntiquity via the madhouses in the Middle Ages to modern institutions andsmall-scale living-units. This article describes how since World War II, inthe Netherlands, especially the latter form of housing has deeloped increas-ingly in the direction of living as 'normal' as possible.At the moment normalization and integration are key concepts in housingpolicy with regard to mentally handicapped persons. About 1970, the nor-malization principle gained momentum because of the work of among others Bank-Mikkelsen, Bengt Nirje, H. Gunzburg, Ann Shearer, and Wolf Wol-fensberger. Partly due to the pressure of parents' associations the intro-duction of this principle in the Netherlands led to the building of 600 liv-ing-units. The first homes usually have large-scale dayrooms anddormitories. At the moment there is a trent towards further splitting upwards into smaller common rooms and individual bedsitters for every resi-dent. Practical experience shows that this increases the independence andself-reliance of most residents, but is not beneficial for all of them.In financial and ideological grounds mentally handicapped people are in-creasingly housed in specially adapted family dwellings. In actual practice,adaptations afterwards cause many problems. It would be better to constructpurpose-built housing for the mentally handicapped. At the design stage itshould be taken into account that the living units will be occupied by roughly24 metally handicapped persons and these units should be arranged in such away that they can be easily 'rebuilt' into normal family dwellings later on.On the basis of a comparative floor plan analysis, interviews with residentsand experts, and visits to 12 residential institutions important lessons canbe drawn from the recent past (1). For that purpose the article discussesseveral floor plans of the investigated facilties that are illustrative for thedevelopments described.