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Social Housing in Latin America A Methodology to Utilize

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Social Housing in Latin America A Methodology to Utilize ...

    Social Housing in Latin America: A Methodology to Utilize Processes of Self-Organization.

    Nikos A. Salingaros, David Brain, Andrés M. Duany, Michael W. Mehaffy & Ernesto Philibert-Petit (all members of ESRG Environmental Structure Research Group).

    Presented at the Brazilian and Ibero-American Congress on Social Housing, 2006.

Abstract: We offer here a set of evidence-based optimal practices for social housing,

    applicable in general situations. Varying examples are discussed in a Latin American context. Adaptive solutions work towards long-term sustainability and help to attach residents to their built environment. We draw upon new insights in complexity science, and in particular the work of Christopher Alexander on how to successfully evolve urban form. By applying the conceptual tools of “Pattern Languages” and “Generative Codes”, these principles support previous solutions derived by others, which were never taken forward in a viable form. New methodologies presented here offer a promising alternative to the failures of the standard social housing typologies favored by governments around the world, which have proven to be dehumanizing and ultimately unsustainable.

SECTIONS 1-4: BACKGROUND AND CRITICISM.

1. Introduction.

    This paper outlines promising new solutions for the future of social housing. It has been prepared as a comprehensive report by one of the authors (NAS) for Brazil, and is

    generally applicable to all of Latin America. One of us (AMD) is designing social housing in Jamaica and elsewhere in the Caribbean. Two of the authors (AMD & MWM) are

    directly involved with the reconstruction after the hurricane Katrina devastation in the Southern United States, which faces similar, though not identical, realities. Another author (EPP) has researched the pedestrian connectivity of the urban fabric, and is involved in providing government-assisted housing solutions on a massive scale in Mexico. The

    remaining author (DB) has long studied the influence of urban form on social wellbeing and community sustainability, a crucial factor in our discussion.

    The challenge of social housing is a major component of world urban growth, and we wish to present here a comprehensive methodology for radically improving its

    performance. Success will be measured in human terms: i.e., the physical and emotional wellbeing of the resident. We consider a project to be successful if it is maintained and loved by its residents, and also if the urban fabric joins in a healthy and interactive way to the rest of the city. On the other hand, we consider as unsuccessful (and hence

    unsustainable) a project that is hated by its residents for a number of different reasons, wastes resources in initial construction and upkeep, contributes to social degradation, isolates its residents from society, or decays physically in a short period of time.

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The essence of the approach presented here is to apply a sustainable PROCESS rather

    than a specific IMAGE to design and building. The way it was done in the recent past is to

    build according to a prepared image of what the buildings ought to look like, and how they

    should be arranged. By contrast, no image of our project exists at the beginning: it emerges

    from the process itself, and is clear only after everything is finished.

    We can move toward a more thorough and satisfying solution by drawing upon

    Christopher Alexander’s work — one of several pioneers who proposed that urban fabric should follow an organic paradigm and can include theoretical and practical work that for various reasons is not widely applied. What we offer is supported by the evidence from

    many examples of traditional practice over centuries. Governments instead choose to

    impose schemes and typologies that ultimately generate hostility for the fabric of social

    housing from its occupants. We will analyze the reasons for this hostility in order to

    prevent it in the future. The relatively simple solutions presented here are generic.

    Therefore, though geared to Latin America, they can be adopted by the rest of the world

    with only minor modifications. This study outlines ideas that are general enough to apply

    to countries where local conditions that produce housing might be very different.

    We can learn from innovative approaches to government-sponsored housing, developed

    by independent groups in many different settings and conditions. Out of many projects

    built over several decades, very few can be judged to be truly successful using our criteria

    of the residents’ physical and emotional wellbeing. Those few excellent solutions tend to

    be neglected because they fail to satisfy certain iconic properties (which we discuss in

    detail later in this paper). Perhaps surprisingly, we also draw upon successful typologies

    developed for sustainable upper-income communities.

    This paper combines two mutually complementary approaches (and will contrast these

    with existing methods). On the one hand, we will give some explicit practical rules for

    building social housing. Any group or agency wishing to get started immediately may

    implement these with appropriate local modifications on actual projects. On the

    other hand, we will present a general philosophical and scientific background for social

    housing and its cultural implications. The aim of this theoretical material is to “give

    permission” for common-sense arguments; to create the conditions that will safely allow

    and support what in effect comes naturally. People, acting as intelligent local agents, may

    then apply methods that evolved during millennia of successfully performing owner-built

    housing as part of the production of healthy resident-built communities.

    This methodology recognizes and incorporates the self-organizing features of the most

    robust human settlements throughout history, by utilizing a “complexity-managing”

    approach, rather than a linear, “top-down” approach. We propose channeling the design talent and building energy of the people themselves, acting as local agents, within a system

    that we manage only to help generate and guide its evolving complexity. In such an

    approach, “bottom-up” processes are allowed to develop organically, though within

    constraints based upon prior experience. On the other hand, “top-down” interventions must

    be done experimentally and carefully (i.e., with feedback), allowing more interaction with

    smaller-scale “bottom-up” processes. Our proposal goes beyond housing that is literally owner-built in the sense that owners

    hammer nails and pour concrete. It is important that they experience the process of design

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and building as THEIR process. It’s all about establishing connection and engagement.

    The key point is a process that accommodates real engagement, that is agile enough to be responsive to adaptive processes, and that can engage without being driven by the social dynamics of inequality into unfortunate directions. Most important, the process can take advantages of both technology and expertise. We are proposing something far more than letting the poor fend for themselves we wish to empower them with the latest tools and

    a highly sophisticated understanding of urban form.

    As many authors have described previously (e.g. Alexander et. al. (1977), Jacobs (1961),

    Turner (1976)), established planning practice has tended to follow an outmoded early

    industrial model. That model arose in the 1920s, and was widely adopted in the period following World War II. It was based upon a hierarchical “top-down” command-and-

    control paradigm, leading to predict-and-provide planning. Research amply demonstrates that this model does not sufficiently reflect the kind of scientific problem a city poses, because the model ignores the tremendous physical and social complexity of successful urban fabric. Incredibly, it does not even address human interactions with the built

    environment. The resulting failures and unintended consequences are well documented. As science develops more fine-grained and more accurate research tools for the analytical study of such self-organizing phenomena (which include cities), it is necessary now to propose a radical new urbanism. We wish to empower people with the authority of a new methodology, grounded in recent urban research.

    The problem isn’t just the lack of physical complexity. The key to urban place making is really the relationship between the complexity of spatial form and the complexity of social process. If it were just a matter of physical complexity, one might imagine that a top-down process could be created to simulate that complexity say, a computer algorithm. The

    crucial point is that this physical complexity embodies and expresses social life. It is, in certain respects, social relations by other means (e.g., artifacts and built spaces). To some extent, the answer begins by re-conceiving the built environment itself as social process, not just as product or container. This becomes important later when we talk about

    maintenance, since the processual character of this kind of ownership merely begins when residents move in.

    This paper is very complex and deals with many issues, so we need to map out its exposition. The first four sections provide background and criticize current practices. Section 2 introduces the competition between owner-built settlements and government-

    built social housing. Section 3 reviews the standard practices and typologies of top-down social housing programs, and recommends replacing them (or at least complementing them) with a bottom-up procedure. Section 4 pinpoints how a “geometry of control” ruins even

    the best-intentioned schemes by making them inhuman.

    The next six sections offer specific tools for design. Section 5 turns to mechanisms for establishing emotional connections with the built environment. Biophilia, or the need to connect directly to plant life, is a crucial component. We also discuss sacred spaces and their role towards establishing community. Section 6 reviews the work of Christopher

    Alexander, especially his recent work on generative codes. Section 7 argues against the fixed master plan approach, suggesting instead an iterative back-and-forth planning

    process. Section 8 reviews Alexandrine patterns and outlines their transition to generative codes. Section 9 gives, in the broadest possible terms, our methodology for planning a

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    settlement. We suggest getting building permission for a process rather than for a design on paper. Section 10 contains an explicit set of codes describing the armature of services in a social housing project. Section 11 introduces the complementary design tools by describing the generative codes needed for such a project.

    The next four sections continue with practical suggestions for making projects work. Section 12 suggests appointing a project manager to direct the application of generative codes. Section 13 argues for using appropriate materials: cheap but permanent; durable but flexible enough to shape; solid but friendly to sight and touch. We also discuss the proper use of industrial modules such as a plumbing box. Section 14 broaches the topic of funding a project, recommending the involvement of a non-governmental organization that focuses on the small scale. Section 15 is political, delving into how one can best cooperate with existing systems geared to producing social housing that follow very different, industrial typologies. Section 16 offers strategies for getting residents to maintain their settlements after they are built.

    The final four sections identify some of the problems. Section 17 faces the difficult problem of retrofitting the favela to make it an acceptable part of urban fabric. Sometimes it cannot be done. We discuss a reinforcement strategy for when it is feasible to do so. Section 18 analyzes some failures to understand the life of a squatter, such as their economic need for proximity to the city. This makes new social housing built far outside the city unattractive. We also warn against grand schemes that can turn into economic disasters. Section 19 blames architects for imposing modernist forms on social housing. That geometry makes them hostile for residents. Section 20 blames the residents themselves for rejecting adaptive housing and urban typologies, wanting instead the sterile images of modernism. Section 21 reviews how conditions are different today from the past several decades, and offers optimism for a broad acceptance of adaptive housing. The Appendix contains an explicit generative sequence for social housing on a greenfield or open brownfield.

2. The Ecosystem Analogy.

    Here is a basic incompatibility: organic urban fabric is an extension of human biology, whereas planned construction is an artificial vision of the world imposed by the human mind on nature. The former is full of life but can be poor and unsanitary, whereas the latter is often clean and efficient but sterile. One of these two contrasting urban morphologies can win out over the other, or they could both reach some sort of equilibrium coexistence (as has occurred in most of Latin America). In the movement for “self-construction”, the

    government accepts that owners will build their own houses, and provides materials and training to help establish the networks of electricity, water, and sewerage.

    “Social housing” is usually understood as a project for housing the poor, built and financed by a government or non-governmental organization. Occupants could purchase their units, but a usual practice is to rent them at low subsidized rents, or even to provide them for free. In the latter instances, the residents live there by courtesy of (and are subject to varying degrees of control by) the owning entity. A “squatter settlement”, on the other hand, is a self-built development on land that is not owned by the residents, and which is

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    frequently occupied without permission. Since squatter settlements are illegal, the government generally refuses to provide the means of legally purchasing individual plots of land. In most cases, it also refuses to connect those residences to the utility grid (electricity, water, and sewerage) of the rest of the city. As a result, living conditions there are the worst among peacetime settlements.

    Social housing and squatter settlements are regions where more than one billion of the world’s very poor live. We are going to discuss these two urban phenomena side-by-side,

    and offer to resolve the ideological and spatial competition between the two. As a basic starting point, housing for the poor represents the lowest level of the world’s urban

    ecosystem. Different forces within human society generate both types of urban system: either government-sponsored social housing, or squatter settlements. Christopher Alexander (2005), Hassan Fathy (1973), N. J. Habraken (1972), John F. C. Turner (1976), and others recognized this competition before us, and proposed an accommodation of the two systems. Turner helped to build several projects in Peru and Mexico, and advised others on implementing such ideas worldwide.

    The ecosystem analogy also explains and to a certain extent justifies the vigilance by which governments prevent squatter settlements from invading the rest of the city. If not restrained by law and direct intervention, squatters move into private and public land. We are describing a species competition for the same available space. Each species (urban typology) wants to displace all the others. Squatter settlements can take over the entire city if allowed to do so (for example, in Cairo, they have taken over the flat roofs of commercial buildings; in the USA people build temporary shelters in public parks and under highway overpasses). The government, in turn, would like to clear all squatter settlements. Governments the world over assume that they must construct planned housing to replace owner-built housing. That is too expensive to be feasible.

    Like all truly organic systems, cities are better off without central control. Accommodating competing urban systems never became standard practice, however. Although the basic ideas about traditional settlements were in place, several key elements of understanding were previously missing. We are now offering expertise in housing as a DYNAMIC process (by combining pattern languages with generative codes: see later sections). Interventions are needed, starting from scratch in new housing projects. The same dynamic process can also be applied to already built environments, in seeking to adapt a large number of informal unplanned housing projects (favelas or others) by bringing them up to acceptable living conditions.

    Competition occurs among all economic strata (“species”) that either use urban land, or profit from it. In Latin American cities, urban land speculation leaves a large amount of undeveloped land with all the services already in place wasted. The poorest population then has to find plots on the outskirts, and pay steep prices for water and other services, without having the benefit of living close to their main source of income (the central city). This creates a severe problem for the government. Rather than characterizing the practice as “unfair” (which does not lead to any change), we point out its tremendous cumulative costs for the future.

    Throughout all the various schemes for social housing tried over the years, it is widely accepted (with only a few exceptions) that the unplanned owner-built favela is

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    embarrassing to the government, and has to be bulldozed as soon as possible. Yet that assumption is wrong. Very few in a position of authority seem to consider the urban and economic advantages of existing shantytowns. The geometry of buildings, lots, and street patterns has for the most part developed (evolved) organically, and we will argue here that this self-organization affords a number of very desirable features. With all its grave faults, the favela offers an instructive spontaneous demonstration of economic, efficient, and rapid processes of housing people.

    The favelas’ disadvantages are not inherent in the urban system itself. Their organic geometry is perfectly sound, yet it is precisely that aspect which is vehemently rejected. It simply doesn’t fit into the stereotyped (and scientifically outmoded) image of what a

    progressive urban fabric ought to resemble neat, smooth, rectangular, modular, and

    sterile. A favela’s organic geometry is linked with the illegal act of squatting, and with a pervasive lawlessness. The geometry itself represents “an enemy to progress” for an administration. We cannot build living urban fabric (or save existing portions) until we get past that prejudice. The favela has a self-healing mechanism absent from most top-down social housing schemes. Organic growth also repairs urban fabric in a natural process, something entirely absent from geometrically rigid housing projects.

    Ironically, the organic geometry of the favela is typically at odds with the imperatives of both the Left and the Right in a modern state, given its interest in responding to social issues in a manner that is appropriately controlled. Some of that interest in control has to do with a literal interest in the kind of rational administrative order that is tied to social control. Nevertheless, much of it may reflect either the state’s need to legitimate its interventions by demonstrating its rationality, or its need to maintain the bureaucratic rituals of accountability when distributing public resources, or its respect for the conventions of private property. It could also be a sincere reformist concern for elevating the living standards of the poor in a way that is both efficient and procedurally fair, in a manner motivated by democratic principles.

    An ordered geometry gives the impression of control invested in the entity that builds. Whether this is intentional (to display the authority of the state) or subconscious (copying images from architecture books), governments and non-governmental organizations prefer to see such an expression of their own “rationality” through building. Departure from this set of typologies is felt to be a relaxation of authority; or it raises possible questions regarding the legitimacy of distributions of resources that aren’t subject to careful bureaucratic accounting procedures. Both of these are avoided because they tend to erode the authority of the state, particularly under regimes where the rights of private property are an important part of the legal and regulatory systems. Morphologically complex

    squatter settlements are usually outside the government’s control altogether. One way of asserting control is to move their residents to housing built by the government. In a sad and catastrophic confirmation of our ideas, various governments in Africa have periodically bulldozed owner-built dwellings, driving their residents to live out in the open.

3. Antipatterns of Social Housing.

    Let us summarize some of the current beliefs and typologies that drive social housing today, so that we can replace them with an entirely different framework. We will suggest

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    using solutions that we feel work best as the more enlightened alternative. Much of our criticism focuses on top-down control. That approach leads to simplification in the planning process. However, one cannot design and build complex urban fabric using top-down tools. There is more to criticize in the specific images people have of modernity. That concerns both architects, who carry with them a false set of desirable images; and residents, who are invariably influenced by those same images through the media.

    1. Existing public housing projects are conceptualized and built as cheap dormitories, and thus follow a military/industrial planning philosophy: build as many units as possible, as cheaply and efficiently as possible. We should abandon this mindset and build urban quarters instead. Building an urban quarter is a much more complex undertaking, and one that requires complex engagement beyond the small circles of policy-making and

    professional elites.

    2. To erect a housing project most efficiently, the directing entity wants to have maximal control over the geometry and building process. This practical requirement means that user participation is excluded.

    3. The very name “social housing” implies that only a dormitory is built, and not an urban quarter. Following World War II, monofunctional zoning became the established criterion by which governmental interventions were carried out. Those ideas were in place before the War, but post-war reconstruction and expansion gave the opportunity to apply them on a much larger scale.

    4. The industrial building typology relegates plants and the natural environment to a purely decorative role, or eliminates them altogether. Nevertheless, human health is possible only if we connect to plants and nature in our immediate surroundings: the “Biophilia Hypothesis” (Kellert, 2005).

    5. An urban quarter is comprised of complex social networks, and requires the appropriate urban morphology of a network. It is never monofunctional, and it is not homogeneous. It cannot be built in a top-down fashion by central government. Individual villages (Pueblos in Latin America) have been evolving far longer than 500 years; they

    possess a rich inheritance of a mixture of many cultures that comes from the deep past, e.g. indigenous cultures such as Toltec, Mayan, Incan, Carib and incoming cultures such as Spanish, Portuguese, African, Islamic and so on. There are many lessons that we can learn from this evolution.

    6. A conventional social housing project is seldom concerned about social accessibility to the urban network, since it is usually built in disconnected (many times rural) areas. All too often, the issue is understood only as a matter of “housing”, with measures of success typically in terms of quantities of “units” and immediate impact on individuals, rather than the quality (or sustainability) of the community life that results.

    7. The typical location of social housing projects in rural areas has to do with a powerful economic reason: the land owners have managed to get a change of land use and have

    obtained for themselves an extraordinary surplus value. This is part of the sprawl-oriented development in our cities. Furthermore, the project itself, the government, and the users seldom benefit in any way from this surplus value.

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    8. A typical social housing project conceived as a disconnected “urban island” has an awful impact on the environment. It is disconnected from local and from global economic cycles.

    9. The geometry of a conventional social housing project and the configuration of its constituent units give few or no ways to affect further development. They present a number of geometrical obstacles for its evolution over time. This impediment frustrates the

    inhabitants’ hopes, and suppresses their prospects for social and economic improvement.

    10. Architects, government officials, and future residents all carry within their minds an “image of modernity”. This set of ingrained images generates a building typology that is hostile in actual use, and presents one of the greatest obstacles to adaptive social housing. Governments are still stuck in the mindset of social housing serving jobs in a particular place. The reality is different: healthy urban quarters connect into an urban conglomeration, and people work wherever they can find jobs. By contrast, unhealthy urban regions are isolated, disconnecting people from each other and from employment opportunities.

    Despite strong social and economic forces leading to isolation, our aim is not to codify this isolation in the buildings and urban form. To do that is to compound the problem. We

    should instead use the urban geometry to counteract social isolation.

    The above list of typologies and practices leads to unhealthy housing projects, creating unsustainable social conditions. To achieve a more adaptive approach, those typologies must be reversed, and the forces that lead us to repeat the same mistakes over and over again should be redirected. Some errors arise simply out of inertia: copying failed solutions because it has become a habit to do so, and not identifying viable alternatives. Those errors are very easy to resolve once the situation is better understood. There is another class of errors, however, which arise because the same forces lead to similar expressions in

    practical applications. Those conditions cannot be changed, and must instead be redirected. Failure to understand the difference between the two problems means that we will never be able to improve the current situation.

    One principle becomes clear: there is no point of designing “social housing” as such. We need to design and build complex, mixed-use urban fabric, and to make sure it fits into existing complex mixed-use urban fabric. Social housing, and housing in general, need to be part of a healthy (and socially inclusive) process of urbanism. The very notion of monofunctional housing is obsolete, discredited because it never worked to connect

    residents to their environment. All of the planning measures we reject originally well

    intentioned were adopted as a means to improve efficiency in facing a serious urban

    challenge.

    The underlying reasons for their failure have never been officially admitted, however. As a result, there has been a tendency for the debate to focus on problems with the design of social housing as buildings: as if it were merely a matter of coming up with a better design idea to be imposed with more or less the same apparatus of top-down control.

    Usually nowadays, an architect’s idea of a good design is impersonal and oppressive to the actual users. Some more recent public housing initiatives in the USA (such as the HOPE VI program) have made an effort to incorporate resident participation in the process, but relatively superficially and with very mixed success. Our key point is that the process of producing living places that incorporate social housing has to be changed at its root. It

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must accommodate more fundamental and meaningful engagement, grounding the

    generation of urban form in a process that adequately respects the organized complexity distinctive to the nature of cities.

    There is a need to mix social classes for a healthier social fabric. The mix can occur naturally through the process of upgrading. It is also important that people who have a choice remain in the neighborhood. The comprehensive approach to creating a village would seem to make sense in places like Latin America where whole settlements of

    previously rural people create shanty towns and squatter settlements on the periphery of big cities. In that context, there may be no option but to catalyze the generation of whole urban quarters built by the residents, with help by us. Generally, we would want to be cautious about building urban quarters specifically for the poor. Healthy urban fabric is not monofunctional, and neither does it strictly contain one income level. We are aware of the tremendous social difficulties of encouraging mixed-income housing, because of the

    perception that no one would ever want to live next to people even slightly poorer than they are. However, we can find encouraging examples of social mixture in historic towns and historic city centers all around Latin America (the Centro Histórico of Querétaro is a

    good example). The difference lies in the perception of community (which can overcome income differences) versus perceiving a house strictly as real estate. Mixed income communities are not only possible, but are more resilient.

    It is not just a question here of physically separated urban quarters on the urban periphery. How does one create a unique pattern-generating process for these urban

    quarters, without creating enclaves that stand out dramatically from the rest of the city? In other words, how does one plan for low-income buildings without creating “projects”,

    barrios, and ghettos? It seems to us that it is crucial that this rethinking of “social housing” has to be a rethinking of everybody’s housing — i.e., of urbanism such that “social

    housing” is subsumed by a more general process of creating a city of healthy networks (Salingaros, 2005). Connecting to the global networks of the city: major streets, the public transportation system, political and social networks, etc., is of the greatest importance. Part of the mindset of government is that “social housing” has to follow a specific set of policies directed at a specific problem, and administered in and through specific sites. We have super block projects (which are dehumanizing but easy to administer), or we have something like the Section 8 voucher system in the USA, which subsidizes rent for low-income residents. In the case of the latter, social housing becomes an abstract category

    defined only in terms of the pathologies of individuals who need assistance, and addressed in the form of payments to property owners. In the latter case, the “site” is a category of individuals, severed from community connections.

    Typically, the poor already have complex social networks upon which they rely heavily for survival. At the same time, however, the relative isolation of these networks is a serious problem. Although often very densely connected in a “peer group society”, the poor tend to

    have limited connections outside those circles, and are isolated in their own villages. They are bound into small networks, but have no sense of themselves categorically as residents of a neighborhood. They also tend to distrust people from outside their networks.

    Essentially, they have no capacity to identify with or care about the neighborhood as a neighborhood. The problem from a network point of view becomes how to strengthen the pattern of weak ties in such a way that one can incorporate low-income populations into

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    civic life. Moreover, this has to be done without disrupting the strong networks of mutual assistance on which those residents rely. The solution requires organizing these local networks into a network that works on a larger scale.

4. A Geometry of Control.

    The psychological process of control influences urban form and the shape of social housing to a remarkable extent. Control may be manifested in architectural geometry and also in urban layout. A rigid, mechanical geometry dictates the shape of individual

    buildings and urban spaces, while the geometry of their layout determines the relationship among separate buildings and the shape of the street network. There are many

    opportunities to express control in urban and architectural terms, and we find them all in government-built social housing.

    Examples of organic/bottom-up generated urban structures are found along a universal

    timeline starting with the first cities registered in the Neolithic period, through modern times. The mechanical/top-down fabricated urban structure is found in our timeline ever

    since patterns of colonization first appeared in history. Thus, we have models of this

    mechanical structure dating from the imperial periods of Greece, Rome, or China until th Century, an exacerbated mechanical structure was imposed on cities by today. In the 20

    the machine culture of modernist thoughts and values. This last period has been decisive in configuring the structure of present day cities, and is set to dominate those of coming years. In the near future, spatial fragmentation could become the ultimate consequence of the recent past. Alternatively, we may enter the period when the emerging paradigm of

    networks could be wisely used to connect our spatial structures and patterns again,

    working instead against fragmentation.

    There exists a clearly recognizable “geometry of power” (Alexander, 2005; Salingaros,

    2006). It is most clearly expressed in military and Fascist architecture of the Second World War (and long before that), but has been adopted by governments and institutions of all political persuasions (from the most progressive, to the most repressive). Such buildings are shaped as oversized rectangular blocks and are placed in strictly repetitive rectangular grids. High-rise blocks give the impression of control of their occupants, who are forced into a military/industrial typology that is obviously the opposite of the free urban geometry of the favela. We have two contrasting geometries: housing units massed into one or more blocks, versus having them spread out irregularly. The psychological impression of control follows the possibility of ACTUAL control, as the entrance to a high-rise housing block can be easily sealed off by the police, something that is impossible in a rambling cluster of individual houses.

    Government officials and developers share these views about control, and this in turn tends to eliminate any other approach. The local government would prefer to have better access to the site through regularly shaped blocks. Administrators are fooled by the notion that simplistic geometric shapes are the only typology we can use to create efficient new dwellings.

    An administration can build many smaller units rather than high-rise blocks, but rigidly fixed to a military/industrial grid on the ground. Individual housing units are exact copies

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