Shanty towns as architectural inspirations

Paul Raven @ 12-01-2009

Rio de Janeiro shantytownGOOD Magazine has a piece on architect Teddy Cruz, who plans to use the ad-hoc shanty towns of Tijuana, Mexico as the inspiration behind some new urban developments. The thinking is that what emerges out of necessity may actually have lessons to teach us about the efficient use of space and resources:

Behind the precariousness of low-income communities, says Cruz, there is a sophisticated social collaboration: People share resources, make use of every last scrap, and look out for each other.

[…]

Cruz’s plan aims to vault the income gap with developments on several lots that are integrated into the city. The developments will include 60 housing units, playgrounds, a market, urban agriculture, and job-training facilities, all managed by a coalition of nonprofit groups.

It’s certainly a nice idea, and I’d be the first to applaud any attempt to learn from emergent phenomena where human endeavour is concerned. But I can’t help but feel this might not work out quite as planned… possibly because the UK is littered with housing estates which were designed as self-contained communities, but which aren’t exactly examples of efficiency and harmony any more.

While there are surely lessons to be learned from shantytowns and other interstitial poor communities, I suspect the best lesson we can learn at present is that emergent systems are too complex to be copied easily. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all. [story via BoingBoing; image by Crucsou Barus]

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