1.72 - Mapping informality: the urban forms of ordinary cities

Project Description

Most of the dominant morphological approaches have been developed in the global North. Addressing the global South, in particular informal settlements, which are the most adequate theories, concepts, and methods to analyze cities? And which are those that are not sufficiently robust to be used in different geographical contexts? How urban morphology can be useful to read, interpret and plan informal growth? This PhD research addresses these fundamental questions.

The research is divided into two main objectives. Firstly, it investigates the literature on urban forms of informality to understand the similar characteristics of urban form to be found across different contexts of unplanned development. It systematizes the most relevant formal elements to be analyzed in periods of emergence, settlement, and growth of informal areas. Secondly, it explores the transformation of urban forms in a Brazilian city, Salvador – Bahia, identifying the location in which informal settlements emerged, the differences in types of settlements and the relation established between formal and informal parts.

The planning context of Salvador is analyzed to highlight the ways in which informality has been framed since they emerged as a socio-spatial issue. Then, urban morphology approaches such as the historico-geographical and process-typological are used to describe the urban character of the city, identifying similarities and differences on the geographical setting, streets, plots and buildings levels.

The thesis aims at providing contributions to different knowledge fields. As a general purpose, the research offers an understanding of relevant morphological elements to read and interpret the urban forms of informality of different cities across the globe. For the urban morphology theory, it discusses the necessary adaptations to urban morphology to analyze informal settlements and it advances the usefulness of the fringe belts concept to study unplanned growth. To planning practice, the case study analysis indicates form-based parameters to a future planning agenda for the city of Salvador, overcoming the formal/informal separation reinforced by the ucurrent urban plan.

Financial support
  • FCT: PD/BD/2018/146499
Research Team
  • Silvia Spolaor
  • Vítor Oliveira (supervisor)
  • Tolga Unlu (co-supervisor)
Stage of progress
  • Concluded in 2023