10 Informal City Projects Around the World

In continuation of our case study roundups (check out our previous one on Waterfront Regeneration), this week our series focuses on upgrading the informal city, just one of the challenges our program addresses through the practice of urban design. Read on!

1. Belapur Incremental Housing. Navi Mumbai, India (1986-present) | Charles Correa – Designed as an equitable housing scheme that could grow over time and adapt to individual needs, Correa’s Incremental Housing in Dharavi–one of Asia’s largest slums–continues to thrive, though some say that its original intentions have given way, perhaps inevitably, to the changing aspirations of the modernizing urban Indian citizen.

2. The Favela-Bairro Project. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (1995) | Jorge Mario Jauregui Architects – This slum-neighborhood program in Rio has earned national and international acclaim for its approach to upgrading the existing city, culture and accomplishments, developing urban patterns already shaped by the settlements themselves and according to the residents’ wishes.

3. Vertical Gym. Chacao, Caracas, Venezuela (2001-03) | Urban-Think Tank with Mateo Pinto and Matias Pinto – The transformation of a rundown sports field in the dense Barrio La Cruz into a popular four-story sports, recreation, and cultural event facility without displacing any families has reduced crime in the area by 30 percent.

©Urban Think Tank

4. Medellin’s Cable Transit System (2006) – As part of the Proyecto Urbano Integral Nororiental led by architect Alejandro Echeverri (who studied in Barcelona), this gondola lift system implemented by the City Council of Medellín, Colombia was designed to reach some of the least developed suburban areas of Medellín and is largely considered to be the world’s first Cable Propelled Transit system.

5. Metro Cable. Caracas, Venezuela (2007-10) | Urban-Think Tank – Following the footsteps of Medellin’s metrocable, this cable car system connects the neighborhood of San Agustín with the city of Caracas and integrates “plug-in” buildings—structures attached to each station housing cultural and recreational programs—as well as other, smaller-scale interventions close by.

6. Manguinhos Complex. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (2005-10) | Jorge Mario Jáuregui/Metropolis Projectos Urbanos – This project involved elevating existing train tracks to make room for a linear park instead of clearing an area of houses in the extremely dense favela. The new pedestrian walkway and 24-hr transportation hub transforms the most problematic sector in the area into one of great virtues: from divider to connector.

©Jorge Juáregui

7. METI-Handmade School. Rudrapur, Bangaldesh (2004-06) | Anna Heringer and Eike Roswag – Although essentially a building project, this school forms part of a larger master plan that makes use of vertical space in the village to minimize the buildings’ footprints and free up land for agricultural use. Made from cob and built almost entirely by the community itself it stimulated a renewed interest in traditional building techniques.

©Anna Heringer

8. Palestinian Refugee Camp of Nahr el Bared, North Lebanon (2009-present) | Isamael Sheikh Hassan, UNRWA –  The reconstruction of this refugee camp home to 30,000 Palestinian refugees and severely battered by the 2007 Lebanon conflict, involves a master plan based on the existing morphology of the camp, maintaining important socio-economic relationships while improving the interplay between open and built space.

Image from: Viviana d'Auria, Bruno de Meulder, Kelly Shannon. Human Settlements - Formulations and (Re)Calibrations. Sun Academia/UFO2, 2010. p.141

9. Strategic Urban Projects Dharavi Mumbai, India | Kelly Shannon and Janina Gosseye –  In their book Reclaiming [The Urbanism of] Mumbai (Sun Academia, 2009), Shannon and Gosseye examine both the status quo in current developments of this megacity while exploring stimulating projects that are emerging on the margins that provide hope for future directions of its urbanisation.

Reclaiming the ecological structure of Mumbai through the restoration of wetlands and public and private investments. Image from: Kelly Shannon, Janina Gosseye. Reclaiming (The Urbanism) of Mumbai. Sun Academia, 2009. p.202

10. The Value of Informal Settlements in the Design of Cities. Cali, Colombia (2009-present) | LAU – This study performed by our program’s co-director Carmen Mendoza as part of LAU (Urban Design and Regional Planning Lab)analyzes the case study of the informal settlement of Siloe in Cali Colombia, and seeks to identify the physical and social traits of the settlement in order to incorporate them in a physical grid made up of certain urban projects which could propel its urban regeneration.

The existing informal settlements in the Comuna 20, Cali, Colombia

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  1. […] Human Settlements Formulations and (re)Calibrations (2010) – Through case studies both old and new, this book offers an in depth study of modern settlements that result from war, conflicts and natural catastrophes, in relation to architecture, urban design and planning. The book includes several of the projects we included in this week’s case study roundup of Informal Cities. […]

  2. […] Megacity – One of they key issues addressed in our masters course is megacities and informal settlements. Here is some stunning footage taken from high above these urban metropolises, including places […]

  3. […] línea con una de nuestras temáticas–la ciudad precaria, o informal cities–recomendamos la exposición Con o Sin Techo: Mecanismos para la mejora del hábitat en […]

  4. […] since films like City of God and Slumdog Millionaire, the informal city has carved out its spotlight in mainstream media. Architects who have made it their investigative […]



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