Tag: Informal


Bombay: Static and Kinetic

Bombay—as a city reclaimed from the sea—is built not on land, but on capital. This is visible topologically: Mumbaikars who are rich enough live and work in tall buildings; everyone else is condemned to borrowed ground.

At the same time, inadequate infrastructure in the Island City is driving the trend of decentralization. New growth throughout the metro region is contingent not only on the dispersion of capital, goods and services, but also on increased connectivity—between suburban districts as well as to the core.

Urban planning at present foregrounds real estate and big business interests.The mutually-beneficial cooperation of Government and Business excludes the majority of Mumbai residents. Consequently, any collective opposition takes the (form) language of opposition.

Current efforts to make Mumbai a "world-class" or "global city"—the transplantation of New York City's urban image through the economic structure of Shanghai—fail to critique this project. The Western Capitalist city invariably produces economic segregation; Mumbai, already a site of gross inequality, is a city of hybridized land use.

Mumbai's hybridity is inherently productive for generating INCLUSIVE economic growth at a large scale. Therefore, the urban strategy should maximize the frequency of programmatic adjacencies and combinatory infrastructure: Optimize the interfacial.

Our proposal creates a new information technology district which connects emerging developments and informal enterprise across the region.

A new thickened ground provides an integrated framework to facilitate interaction between informal and formal economies, maximizing resources and efficiency.

Informal economies at the ground level interface more seamlessly with the more formal economies above. The hybrid ground fosters new and stronger connections between both of these vibrant markets.


In/Formal Kiosk Culture

Africa today has among the highest rates of urbanization on the planet. In the twin cities Accra and Tema, the human settlement closest to the earth's geographic origin 0-0, this urban growth puts pressure on networks of electricity, transportation and ecology.

Tema is a new town built from scratch for 250,000 people. Sixty years later, the population is 2-4X that size, and coupled with Accra reaches several million.

The construction industry in Ghana is part of the informal sector — mobile or semi-legal kiosks and containers that retrofit automobiles and electronics, fabricate furniture, building materials, dresses, hairstyles, food...and which sell mobile phone credits on every street corner — the basic unit of information in Africa.

Official policy is to excise the cancer of the informal from the city. But micro-enterprises not only provide jobs; they are also where – out of necessity – improvisation is automatic. These are sites of innovation.

Meanwhile innovation has stalled in Ghana's building industry over the past forty years - a period during which innovation was forced from the top down; that failed.

This project inverts that model. The informal sector is already innovating: accessible information is the catalyst for accelerating that innovation. This is social design R&D, and it has to be from the bottom-up.

One example is bamboo lifecycling. Grow bamboo on undeveloped land in the city, use it to self-build bigger and higher-performance micro-architecture that approach zero cost, and burn as cooking fuel when the buildings expire. This means money typically spent on construction can be used instead on things like solar panels or shared wifi. Bottom-up means using tactics of the informal... like planting bamboo on land we don't own, and prototyping not in isolation but with people who work in the informal sector.

The paradox is that -economically- cities provide jobs but -ecologically- construction of the city is proportional to destruction of nature. The limiting constraint in many African urban ecologies may now no longer be capital, but rather access to information: How to simultaneously expand economic and ecological densities sustainably.

Subscribe to Tag: Informal