The Construction of Home in the Informal City

In: Transculturation

Abstract

The cities of Latin America are expanding rapidly largely through the energy and efforts of ordinary people who are creating their own dwelling environments in informal settlements with varying degrees of support or condemnation from municipal authorities. Although there is considerable diversity between settlements, most share three key characteristics. Firstly, these environments are conceived and constructed by the occupants themselves independently of external controls or professional advice; secondly, occupation and construction frequently take place simultaneously; and thirdly, such places are usually in a process of dynamic change and demonstrate considerable ingenuity and creativity within limited resource constraints. To explore these process of informal place-making and the resulting environments this chapter draws on data from a study of squatter settlements in northern Colombia. Through analysis of the processes of making, both collectively and at household level, we will gain insights into the multiple influences on the decision-making processes involved. Far from the common image of inadequate, chaotically organised places it will be argued that these environments respond to clear, culturally embedded ideas about how cities and dwellings should be configured.