Author Archives: noelmurphy

Proposal for Moving our Research Forward

We agree our proposal will be a provocation (what if?) rather than conclusive instructions for practice (this is how it is). When posing the question this way, we seem to agree that the potential for new frameworks involves channeling a diverse set of organizations (of various scales, compositions, funding sources) to maximize effectiveness through cooperation. Additionally, we talked about focusing on a particular geographic area(s) to add depth to our research.

After giving this more thought, I am proposing a slightly modified direction. Taking into account our resources (in terms of time/expertise), I think we should consider how we can be most effective with our work. The prior post about Mumbai highlights the complexity of the issues we are engaging. It is difficult to speculate on how the specifics of slum redevelopment in Mumbai (or any other city) are transferable across cities, nations, continents. Essentially, they may be too specific to be meaningful at the larger scale – nevermind the effort required to do a truly effective case-study or find a novel collaboration between two organizations.

Despite this, there are certain paradigms present in the Mumbai example that are transferable or have value in the fact that they are distinct from practices in other contexts. I propose that we operate more at the level of paradigm rather than nitty gritty. More after the break…

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Slum Rehabilition Authority – Mumbai

Large-scale government coordinated efforts (led by Mumbai’s Slum Rehabilitation Authority) are taking place in Mumbai to rehouse the vast population of slum inhabitants. The process is largely market-driven with government authorities selling land occupied by slums to developers for private development. Because of density pressures in Mumbai, this land has incredible value to private enterprises. In exchange for he land’s development rights, developers are required to provide new housing to existing inhabitants, while the remainder of the site is open to private market-driven use. Not surprisingly, this process is often plagued by corruption and unfulfilled promises, but the existence of a formal mechanism for addressing slums locally is worth our attention. More after the break…

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Globalization, Politics, Economy – The Context of Slums

“The root cause of urban slumming seems to lie not in
urban poverty but in urban wealth.”
– Gita Verma, Slumming India: A Chronicle of Slums and Their Saviours

I came across a series of papers addressing the ‘Culture of Open Networks.’ Although the majority of the writing addresses new media, a pair of essays by Mike Davis and Saskia Sassen examine the presence/evolution of slums in the contemporary city. The specific focus is Bangalore, but their analysis of ‘slum production’ is a helpful addition to our general research. As we look further at the opportunities available to us as architects/designers, it is important to remain cognizant of the larger socio/econ/poli structures influencing the physical context we see in front of us.

Here are the Davis/Sassen essays
Here is the full publication entitled In the Shade of the Commons: Towards a Culture of Open Networks

Slums: Beginning a Global Profile


Generally defined as a heavily populated urban area characterized by substandard housing and access to basic services, overcrowding, insecure tenure, and social exclusion. A slum is typically not recognized and addressed by public authorities as an integral or equal part of the city. Further, this definition can take two categorizations: Informal settlements such as squatter settlements and Declining communities in which conditions have degenerated due to neglect. Informal (improvisational) economic activities of slums are closely intertwined with the city’s formal economy and informal services located in slums often extend to the whole city in terms of clientele.


Over 30% of world’s urban population resides in slums

This type of urban living is particularly prevalent in developing regions accounting for 43% of all urban population (vs 6% in developed regions)

It is projected that population residing in slums will increase to 2 billion (approximately double) by 2030 if current trends persist

Population, specifically urban population, is growing rapidly in less developed countries – slums are a reservoir for much of this growth as formal construction, infrastructure, and building programs are unable to keep pace with these increases

Urban populations growing faster than the capacity of cities to support them

Slum formation diagram

UN Millennium Development Goals, Target 11

By 2020, to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.

Builds upon the Cities Alliance’s Cities Without Slums initiative. The Cities Alliance was founded in 1999 by the World Bank and UN-Habitat, and h has expanded to 18 members, including leading global associations of local authorities, ten bilateral agencies and four multilateral agencies. It is a paradox that the greatest global challenges – urbanization and urban poverty – are increasingly being managed at the local level. This is at the heart of our research.

“In facing the challenge of slums, urban development policies should more vigorously address the issue of livelihoods of slum dwellers and urban poverty in general, thus going beyond traditional approaches that have tended to concentrate on improvement of housing, infrastructure, and physical environmental conditions. Slums are, to a large extent, a physical and spatial manifestation of urban poverty, and the fundamental importance of this fact has not always been recognized by past policies aimed at either the physical eradication or the upgrading of slums. Slum policies should seek to support the livelihoods of the urban poor, by enabling urban informal sector activities t flourish, linking low-income housing development to income generation, and ensuring easy access to jobs through pro-poor transport and low-income settlement location policies.”
The Challenge of Slums, Global Report on Human Settlements 2003 – UN Human Settlements Programme


General urban housing standards have improved in last decade. Until the financial crisis of 1997, formal building kept pace with urban growth. Some countries, such as Thailand have continued to improve their urban conditions. However, most urban populations grew faster then the capacity of cities to support them, so slums increased, particularly in South Asia.

Sub-Saharan Africa
Most cities in sub-Saharan Africa and some in Northern Africa showed considerable housing stress. Slum areas increased significantly and the rate of slum improvement was slow or negligible in most places. In South Africa, a very large housing program reduced the numbers of informal settlements substantially.

Latin America
In some countries there has been wholesale tenure regularization and a large drop in numbers of squatter households, reducing the number of slums under most definitions. Also, urbanization reached saturation levels so slum formation slowed. Still, housing deficits remain high and slums a prominent in most cities.


If you all are interested, we can give “The Social Design Practice” some graphic loving.  Unfortunately, we cannot customize our blog theme unless we upgrade to ‘Custom CSS.’  Its cheap ($15 to be exact) so if it sounds worthwhile to everyone, I will go ahead and do it.  And I will delete this post since it isn’t quite on topic…


I have posted an admittedly sloppy attempt at responding to Paul’s 3 questions – Proposition, Rationale, Evidence. Please take a look and add comments to the Google Doc. If you make revisions, just leave a comment here so we all know there is a fresh version to look at. It needs lots of refining, but hopefully it lays out the ideas we’ve discussed well enough to get us started.

For you gmailers, here is the document.