1st Edition

Urban Labyrinths Informal Settlements, Architecture, and Social Change in Latin America

By Pablo Meninato, Gregory Marinic Copyright 2024
    206 Pages 70 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Urban Labyrinths: Informal Settlements, Architecture, and Social Change in Latin America examines intervention initiatives in informal settlements in Latin American cities as social, spatial, architectural, and cultural processes.

    From the mid-20th century to the present, Latin America and other regions in the Global South have experienced a remarkable demographic trend, with millions of people moving from rural areas to cities in search of work, healthcare, and education. Without other options, these migrants have created self-built settlements mostly located on the periphery of large metropolitan areas. While the initial reaction of governments was to eliminate these communities, since the 1990s, several Latin American cities began to advance new urban intervention approaches for improving quality of life. This book examines informal settlement interventions in five Latin American cities: Rio de Janeiro, Medellín, São Paulo, Buenos Aires, and Tijuana. It explores the Favela-Bairro Program in Rio de Janeiro during the 1990s which sought to improve living conditions and infrastructure in favelas. It investigates projects propelled by Social Urbanism in Medellín at the beginning of the 2000s, aimed at revitalizing marginalized areas by creating a public transportation network, constructing civic buildings, and creating public spaces. Furthermore, the book examines the long-term initiatives led by SEHAB in São Paulo, which simultaneously addresses favela upgrading works, water pollution remediation strategies, and environmental stewardship. It discusses current intervention initiatives being developed in informal settlements in Buenos Aires and Tijuana, exploring the urban design strategies that address complex challenges faced by these communities. Taken together, the Latin American architects, planners, landscape architects, researchers, and stakeholders involved in these projects confirm that urbanism, architecture, and landscape design can produce positive urban and social transformations for the most underprivileged.

    This book will be of interest to students, researchers, and professionals in planning, urbanism, architecture, urban design, landscape architecture, urban geography, public policy, as well as other spatial design disciplines.

    List of figures

    Foreword: Francesco M. Orsini



                Migratory Waves

                Right to the City?


                Addressing Informality

                Published Antecedents

                Structure of the Book                                               

    Chapter 1. Rio De Janeiro

                Slavery. Brazil's Enduring Legacy

                The Favela-Bairro Program

                Jorge Jáuregui. ‘Everything had to be built’

                Favela Intervention Tactics. Urbanism, Architecture, and Landscape Design

                Design as an Agent of Social Change

                A Preemptive Balance of the Favela-Bairro Program 

    Chapter 2. Medellín

                Laying the Foundations

                Sergio Fajardo's Citizen Commitment

                Redefining Governance: Empresas Publicas de Medellin (EPM) and Empresa de Desarrollo Urbano (EDU)

                Alejandro Echeverri and the Catalan Connection

                PUI: Toward an Urban Design Strategy for Informal Neighborhoods

                Case Study: PUI Nororiental

                Case Study: UVA de la Cordialidad

                Social Urbanism: Critiques and Recommendations

    Chapter 3. São Paulo

    A Distinctive Urban History

    The 1980s: Brazil ‘Discovering’ its Favelas

    The Antonico Creek Project in Favela Paraisópolis

    Upgrading Favelas in ‘the Corner of Heaven’

    Devising Favela-intervention Mechanisms

    Women in Command

    Post-occupation Concerns and Strategies

    Chapter 4. Buenos Aires

                The Persistence of the Urban Grid

                The ‘Villas Miseria’ and the Policies of Eradication

                Argentina Acknowledges the ‘Villas Miseria’

                2001: The Conurbano as the Expression of a Country in Turmoil

                Urbanism Approximating Informality: Flavio Janches in Villa Tranquila

                Villa 31/ ABario Padre Carlos Mugica

                On Housing, Civic Buildings, and Public Spaces

                Reasons for Optimism for a Fractured Country

    Chapter 5. Tijuana

                When Illicitness Dictates Urban Growth

                A Laboratory of Postmodernity

                On Paradises, Border Walls, and Canyons

                Los Laureles Canyon

                Oscar Romo, Alter Terra, and the Poetics of Recycling

                Cruz & Forman: Manufacturing Informality

                Combining Formal and Informal Processes

                Informality in Tijuana as a Differentiated Path

    Chapter 6. Theoretical Considerations

                Informal Cities

                Informality in Art

                Hélio Oiticica: Aspiring to a Large Labyrinth

                The Esthetics of the Favela: Paola Berenstein

                Debating Intervention Approaches

                The Cathedrals of Our Time


    Sustainability and Informality

    Anticipating Informality

    The Politics of Informality

    Afterword: Zaida Muxí Martínez



    Pablo Meninato, PhD, is an architect, architectural critic, and educator. A native of Argentina, Meninato has practiced and taught architecture in Philadelphia, Buenos Aires, and Monterrey, Mexico. He is an Associate Professor at the Temple University Tyler School of Art and Architecture where he teaches history, theory, and urban design.

    Gregory Marinic, PhD, is an Associate Professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning SAID and Director of URBANIA, a grant-funded research lab. His current field research is based in Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Lima, La Paz, and Guayaquil where it focuses on housing, urban design, informal settlements, and urban morphology.