Saturday, April 18, 2009

Abstract - Take 1

The dramatic demographic shift from rural to urban societies in the last century has placed tremendous strain on rapidly growing cities in developing countries. Housing programs worldwide have struggled to cope with the demands presented by mass immigration, in most cases resulting in the formation of unplanned communities. From Mumbai to Caracas to Buenos Aires, the presence of unplanned communities has created a series of social problems. Governmental reaction has ranged anywhere from eradication to complete integration. However, residents of unplanned communities continue to live with social prejudices and without basic infrastructural services.
With an estimated one billion people living in squatter communities today, the question of eradication or integration becomes increasingly important. This thesis will focus on Villa 31, an unplanned community of approximately 40,000 in the centre of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Located on some of the country's most expensive real estate, residents of Villa 31 are subject to discrimination within the context of everyday urban life. Through an appropriate small-scale intervention that interacts with both the formal and the informal, this thesis will try to alleviate the social polarization that separates the two interwoven cities. The intervention presented can be highly programmed or highly malleable, but must be able to bridge the physical and psychological gap between both ends of the social spectrum. In doing so, it must work towards the recognition of the informal by the formal as a critical piece of the urban network, while encouraging the recognition and acceptance of the formal by the informal. By encouraging the ongoing radication of Villa 31, the goal is to provoke self-improvement among the whole community. The thesis will act as a case study for the implementation of the informal in the city of the future, and will continuously ask the question, can the informal be formal?