Slum Urbanism

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18 Responses

  1. Madrocketscientist says:

    While I appreciate the aesthetic of a community that grows organically, such growth makes it very difficult to install water, sewer, and utilities in any manageable manner. Is the giddy chaos of an organic community (and we won’t even talk about the violence of the slums in places like India) worth the lack of sanitation?Report

    • David Schaengold in reply to Madrocketscientist says:

      Agreed, but surely there has to be something of a happy medium. We could lose a lot of restrictive regulations of form (not to mention terrible and counter-productive regulations of parking) without compromising sanitation.

      And it’s worth noting that the slums in India are not really violent at all (in contrast to the slums in, say, Rio).Report

      • Matthew Schmitz in reply to David Schaengold says:

        “We could lose a lot of restrictive regulations of form…”
        Does this mean you oppose form-based zoning?Report

        • David Schaengold in reply to Matthew Schmitz says:

          I meant form in a general sense, including regulations about minimum lot acreage, maximum lot coverage, minimum setback lines and height restrictions. Form-based codes are definitely better than use-based zoning, but form-based codes are at best a concession to cultural degeneracy. They do set a low bar of ugliness and hostility to pedestrians below which developments cannot fall. They certainly don’t guarantee, and can sometimes inhibit, forms that make a city really beautiful.Report

        • Matthew Schmitz in reply to Matthew Schmitz says:

          I’ve seen sources that say Indian zoning regulations are stricter on the whole than those in the U.S., but much less strictly enforced.Report

          • David Schaengold in reply to Matthew Schmitz says:

            I don’t know about zoning specifically, but land-use regulations are definitely very tight in Mumbai, at least, where this slum was. That’s one of the reasons there are so many slums, some of which are fairly opulent.Report

      • Francis in reply to David Schaengold says:

        From what I’ve read, one major problem in bringing public infrastructure (roads, power, water, sewage) to these communities is a lack of clear title to the land. Not surprisingly, none (well, few) residents have a deed. And the public resistance to selecting a utility corridor and just bulldozing everyone in the way can be quite strong. So local government (which might be quite deferential to the family claiming title to the land on which the slum is located) can find itself tied up in knots when it tries to bring services to these communities.

        There are a few nonprofits that focus on these issues. One I’m aware of is the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.Report

        • Francis,

          Are you in the planning field in some way, or just an interested observer? Your comments about witnessing left-of-center New Urbanist types is one thing — that is, something that a lot of people could experience —, but I’ve heard few references to the Lincoln Institute.Report

        • David Schaengold in reply to Francis says:

          This was actually what brought me to the slum in the first place. I was working with a non-profit that tried to serve as an intermediary between the slums and the formal structures of Indian governments. One of the first things they always did when entering a new slum was talk to every resident and draw up a map of “properties.”Report

  2. Ms. Jacobs on North End, Boston’s so-called slum:

    The streets were alive with children playing, people shopping, people strolling, people talking. Had it not been a cold January day, there would surely have been people sitting. The general street atmosphere of buoyancy, friendliness, and good health was so infectious that I began asking directions of people just for the fun of getting in on some talk.

    Great post.Report

  3. Rufus F. says:

    Hmmm… not sure how to do links well, but here is a picture I took in Marseille of a church that is only accessible by a long alleyway leading to a small space between buildings (visible in the picture)

  4. Freddie says:

    This is what more bloggers should be doing, writing idiosyncratic pieces that are unlikely to be written by anyone else. Well done.Report

  5. Nob Akimoto says:

    Someone else has read The City in History! I don’t feel like such a nerd anymore!

    And yeah, this is an excellent post and something I think aspiring urban planning departments really need better experience with. Organically built cities without the benefit of central planning or national infrastructure + high wealth give us an interesting perspective on how people like to live, or even how people are inclined to live in communities.Report

    • Mr. Prosser in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      I believe I have seen approximations of your organic cities in the US and Canada where small towns have grown and incorporated adjacent small agricultural homesteads or mining claims over time. Streets and roads run haphazardly, housing enclaves exist surrounded by fields and paddocks, etc. It is sprawl, yes, but the winding roads do lead to a coherent CBD and usually abandoned rail line. Unless the original town has really increased in size and population, it still lacks a mall or big box store. The architecture may not be aesthetically pleasing in all cases but the snse of community is there.Report