Nonformal urbanization will be the dominant mode of urban growth in the coming decades. The results of this growth go by many well-known names, including: slums, favelas, and shantytowns. The precarious conditions of these settlements, excluded from formal legal, social, and infrastructural systems, present a central challenge—and opportunity—in our current and future cities. Short texts explain a range of projects and initiatives, complimented by photographs and personal insights, to present a diversity of responses to the global phenomenon known here as “Metropolis Nonformal”.
The world’s population is ballooning, and most of Earth’s new citizens will live in urban areas. Cities around the globe are already collectively occupied by billions of people with many of these metropolises and megalopolises lacking the organized, government-facilitated infrastructure of so-called “modern” cities in North America and Europe. Instead, residents build their own housing with whatever materials are available, using methods and standards that are sometimes dangerous—and other times ingenious. In fact, safety and health risks do not preclude self-built brilliance, nor vice versa.
Metropolis Nonformal spotlights this trend, brainstorming how urbanists, architects, designers, and planners—whether researchers, theorists, or practitioners—can facilitate the twenty-first century’s predominant form of city-building. The book is derived from two symposia of the same name, which were arranged by Christian Werthmann—a professor of landscape architecture and design at Leibniz University in Hannover. Werthmann and urbanist Jessica Bridger document the talks presented by field experts in this resulting compilation; a thorough primer in urban development for those who reject neocolonialist norms of intervention, featuring timely themes of participation and community.
Although intellectually rigorous, Metropolis Nonformal is an enjoyable read, unclogged of jargon or pretense. The narrative is accompanied by photography provided by the participants, illustrating the places where they have lived and worked—and evoking the form and character of the future places of life and work for the next billion human beings. Metropolis Nonformal poses questions to both reader and industry as it examines how to integrate technology and best practices that are safe, environmental, and ecological, into the self-built city of the future.