Heritage Forum

Informal settlements – perhaps the solution rather than the problem?

Nov 24, 2015 | Forum, News

Why do we not accept it as the norm, rather than the problem?

Informal settlements, or squatter camps, if you like, might be a democratic solution that authorities should investigate to find solutions for urban planning.

Radical Cities, a new book by Justin McGuirk, deals with favellas and barriadas in South America, but it is highly relevant to South Africa and other countries in the developing world.

McGuirk argues that about 85% of the world population lives in so-called slums or squatter neighbourhoods. Why do we not rather accept it as the norm, instead of as a problem? The book is full of positive stories from South America: Quinta Monroy in Chile, where architect Alejandro Aravena, with only half of the money needed to build a house at his disposal, built half houses that include the kitchen and bathroom. The structure is left as such so that the inhabitants can complete the house at their own cost, when they have money available.

Built half houses

Built half houses. Quinta Monroy in Chile. Photo: Archdaily.com


Inhabitants can complete house at own cost

Completed house. Quinta Monroy in Chile. Photo: Archdaily.com


Torre David, another example from this book, is a tower block in Caracas that for long provided accommodation for some 3,000 people through collaboration between the president of Venezuela and the head of the squatter’s representative body.

McGuirk also discusses examples from Lima, Bogotá and Caracas – all of them inspiring stories of hope and innovation by people who have that only: hope.


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