There are many complex relationships between formal and informal cities in Latin America, but most literature on the subject emphasizes social, economic, historical, geographical and political processes in isolation, rather than as integral parts of dynamic urban histories. The evolution over four centuries of the original Spanish colonial grid and plaza settlements to mega-cities where sprawling informal neighborhoods are located in close proximity to natural and human-created hazards which threaten to destroy them is a dramatic story of urban transformation. In recent years, strategies for addressing the concerns raised by informal settlements have shifted away from large-scale slum clearance and relocations to on-site upgrades and improvements with the goal of eventually integrating them with their larger urban contexts. As the examples of Medellín, Rio de Janeiro, Caracas and Buenos Aires illustrate, a comprehensive but locally responsive architecture that combines local commitment with political and professional leadership can overcome physical and cultural obstacles to significantly improve community life.
|Keywords:||Latin America, Informal Housing, Environmental Degradation|
Professor of Architecture and Urban Design, Department of Architecture, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, USA