INFORMALITY PROCESS STRATEGIES Jota Samper In Does Effective Planning Really Exist?, by Christiano Lepratti and Paola Alfaro D´Alençon

Behind the often quoted fact that the population of the planet has crossed the threshold of being 50% urban, lies a hidden reality that has become an important motivation for research: most of that growth is the result of informal settlement development, in what are pejoratively called 'slums'. In fact, looking only at urban growth over the last century, we see an accelerated growth of informal settlements ('slums'). Today, informal settlements contain one-third of the urban population and account for one-third of all urban forms on the planet, making them the most common form of urbanization in the world. Projections indicate that, by the year 2050, informal settlements will house one third of the total world population and half of the urban population. Given the scale of growth of informality in the last half-century, it is safe to argue that the traditional practices of destruction and eviction as tools for slum control have failed. In short, the current legal framework to control the growth of informal cities is insufficient to supply the needs of the millions of urban poor. Currently, planners lack the disciplinary tools to shape this phenomenon.

113 entry Atlas of Informality Sebkha-Mauritania-growth over last 15 years

Two practices define the realm of state agents in dealing with informal settlements: removal and palliation. The removal process begins by demolishing the informal urban form and replacing it with a planned one. The most common tool of this type is the Urban Renewal practice, which was widely applied in the United States in the 1940s (Weiss, 1980; Chronopoulos, 2011) and later exported to the developing world through international lending agencies. Urban Renewal treats poverty as an urban pathology that must be removed for the city to survive. Linking the economic, political, and social issues of urban poverty to the physical manifestations of slums is problematic. The second set of tools are palliative practices. For these practices, acceptance of the informal urban form is the norm. Projects are generated to provide these spaces with the services of the formal city, such as water, sewer, power, transportation infrastructure, public amenities, and land tenure. Significant improvements to the quality of life of communities living in informal settlements can be achieved with these tools. However, these improvements only arrive after years - and in most cases, decades - of state neglect, with grave consequences in terms of social capital, the environment, health, and security.

The large number of new informal settlements make it increasingly evident that new tools and strategies are needed to intervene in these places to create better conditions for those living in them. I argue that two important research efforts are necessary: first, better understanding the process in which urban informality flourishes, and second, presenting strategies to be applied alongside this urban process. The work of Informal Settlements Research (ISR) focuses on engaging with those two scales of inquiry through research mapping projects of informality and engagement with communities in informal settlements, applying the expertise of residents to academic planning and architectural studios. Two projects exemplify these scales of inquiry: a research project to create the Atlas of Informality and a series of design studios in Medellin, Colombia with communities in informal settlements.

Atlas of informality. world map of rate of growth of mapped informal settlements


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