Informal Settlement as a Mode of Production

Authored by: Kim Dovey

The New Companion to Urban Design

Print publication date:  May  2019
Online publication date:  June  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138302129
eBook ISBN: 9780203731932
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9780203731932-15

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Abstract

Informal settlements are neighborhoods developed largely without state control that currently house over a billion people globally. Not to be confused with “slums” or “squatting,” informality is the means through which a substantial portion of the global population have managed the transition from rural to urban life, transforming many cities across the Global South in the process. While some would hesitate to call this urban design or planning, it is where the action has been happening in urban development. The scope of such settlement – now housing over a billion people and growing – means that most informal settlements will not be erased and replaced – the task is one of incremental redevelopment in situ. Yet traditional forms of urban design practice – focused on top-down regulation and the production of fixed designs and master plans – have proven both destructive and blind to the dynamism, complexity, and adaptability of informal urbanism. Informal and formal urbanisms are not binary opposites but intersect to form complex alliances, contradictions, and possibilities. Informal settlement can be understood as a mode of production that works both with and against the formal structures of the city. It engenders new spatial structures and neighborhood morphologies that need to be understood as assets held by the urban poor. And it leads to particular kinds of place identity that impact on the image of the city and political struggles over the right to the city. This chapter shows how assemblage thinking can provide insight into urban informality and new directions for urban design thinking.

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