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Morphogenesis of Informal Settlements


Dovey, K., Shafique, T., van Oostrum, M. & Chatterjee, I. 'Informal Settlement is Not a Euphemism for 'Slum',


This project investigates morphogenic processes through which self-organized urban design and planning produce new urban neighbourhoods within cities of the Global South.

Using Google Earth and Streetview data we analyse the urban morphology – primarily building types, density and access networks – of neighbourhoods in 50 cities as they develop informally from disuse or farmland into urban neighbourhoods.

Unlike the formal city where the urban plan precedes the architecture, here buildings and street networks co-evolve.

While not authorized by the state, this process is not chaotic – informal ‘codes’ emerge to control rights of way, encroachment on open space, privacy and other forms of amenity.

While such codes often fail to prevent the settlement from escalating into a ‘slum’, they can work to produce public space that is vibrant, livable and walkable.

This research is not just a question of cracking these informal morphogenic codes but of understanding the self-organizing practices through which they are developed and enforced.

The key is to recognize informality not as a synonym for ‘slum’ but as a mode of production with varying levels of control by the urban poor.

The goal is to build a knowledge base that will enable better upgrading practices that can harness the productive power of informal urbanism.

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