Adam Nowek – Celebrating South China’s Urban Villages

Axonometric view of building typologies in Xiasha Village (Image: Villages in the City, edited by Stefan Al)

Axonometric view of building typologies in Xiasha Village (Image: Villages in the City, edited by Stefan Al) September 2014.  Urban informality is hardly a new reality for the world’s cities. The term itself has a young theoretical life, being championed by urbanist Ananya Roy as a lens with which to think about how cities are planned and made without the need to approach an urban planning department. Informal settlements exist in a huge variety of forms, from the gradual occupation of the Torre David skyscraper in Caracas to the built-overnight towers of outer Istanbul, and offer ad hoc solutions for housing, retail, and community space alongside questionable building quality.

The Chinese manifestation of urban informality is the urban village. As Stefan Al, architect and Associate Professor of Urban Design at the University of Pennsylvania, sees it, China’s urban villages bear few, if any, similarities to the favelas of Brazil. “They’re actually fully intertwined, although they look like the polar opposite,” notes Al. “From an economic perspective, the urban villages and the city are completely related. The only reason urban villages exist is the inability of the Chinese government to provide adequate housing for millions of people.”

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Sanjeev Sanyal – Why India Needs To Slum It Out


Graphic: September 2014. Indian policymakers have at last accepted that urbanisation is an essential part of economic development. Indeed, current trends suggest that India will be an urban-ma-jority country by 2040. If Prime Minister Narendra Modi succeeds in implementing his plan for rapid industrialisation, the country would hit the milestone even sooner. The implication of this shift is that 300-350 million additional people will have to be accommodated in urban centres within a generation. The Prime Minister clearly appreciates the issue and his plan to create a hundred smart cities should be seen as an attempt to create urban infra-structure in anticipation of the deluge.

While it is good that policymakers are paying more attention to cities, it is important to recognise that urbanisation is a dynamic process. In particular, we need to think about how millions of people will get matched to jobs, homes and amenities, according to their needs and abilities. India’s predicament was faced by today’s developed countries when they urbanised in the 19th and early 20th centuries. So what was the mechanism that sucked in millions of people and slotted them into the urban landscape of Europe, North America and Japan?

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Bookmark and Share – Hawaii Wants To Move The Homeless Away From Tourist Areas September 2014.  Jim Trevarthen used to teach tourists how to surf on Hawaii’s famed Waikiki Beach.

Trevarthen, 62, became homeless after his Waikiki landlord canceled his lease and jacked up the rent, he said. He now spends his days reading surfside and figuring out his next meal; he spends his nights finding a safe place to rest where he won’t be shooed away by police.

Trevarthen is one of Hawaii’s many homeless who live on the shores of paradise, but he is feeling the impact of the city’s ramped up efforts to move its homeless population away from its tourist meccas.
Under pressure from the visitor industry, the Honolulu City Council is taking up a slew of proposals to ban sitting, lying down, defecating and urinating on sidewalks in Waikiki and other public places.

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Al Jazeera ~ Tondo: The Story Of Manila’s Largest Slum

Historian Carlos Celdran explains how the slums of Tondo came into existence as the rebel district of Manila.

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SDI Newsletter | September 2014

Shack:SlumReflections from the Kampala Learning Centre: What does it mean to Know Your City?
This year, SDI launched an initiative called, Know Your City in partnership with the Cities Alliance and United Cities and Local Governments Africa (UCLGA). The initiative has generated a lot of attention, particularly following its launch at the World Urban Forum in Colombia. But what does it mean to Know Your City? In this, the second blog reflection from the Kampala Learning Center, will examine this question in light of the recent launch of the Kampala Slum Profiles by the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU) and its support NGO ACTogether Uganda.

SDI Announces 2013 – 2014 Annual Report
This annual report reviews a set of activities that extend beyond just a year. For SDI, the past year has been the culmination of a multi-year process to achieve citywide scale in all regions where we work. The past three years have enabled SDI to have a unique breadth of international experience in building participatory, developmental institutions at the local government level that is unparalleled across the urban development sector. We are presenting this annual report under the theme Know Your City because it serves as a bridge from where we have been as a network, to where we are heading next.

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David Weiss – From Slums To Significance: The Communities Shaping Our Urban Future

Photo: A meeting of Global Communities staff and community members of Ravine Pintade to plan the reconstruction of the neighborhood.

Photo: A meeting of Global Communities staff and community members of Ravine Pintade to plan the reconstruction of the neighborhood. 2014. The two megatrends of demographic growth and urbanization are rapidly transforming human settlement from rural to predominantly urban environments. This is particularly true in Asia and Africa, where the UN forecasts that the urban population will grow from 2.3 billion people in 2011 to 4.5 billion in 2050. Many large cities in these regions are struggling with how to provide services, housing and jobs for large numbers of rural migrants. These migrants are often highly vulnerable: although they have moved to the city in search of jobs and access to services, the informal neighborhoods that receive them lack infrastructure and are often removed from main centers of economic activity. A lack of economic opportunities and poor living conditions set the stage for marginalization, instability and violence.

At the same time, this raw influx of human capital, ideas and energy are at the core of providing sustainable answers to the challenges that cities face. Too often slum dwellers have been considered a problem. I believe they are the solution.

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