|Shantytown: visual disorder|
What about shantytowns and squatters settlements: are these places of chaos and crime and social breakdown? I'll bet that more people would accept this view today than would accept my first question. But like the first question, this viewpoint is a stereotype that is more often inaccurate than correct. Again, it was ethnographers who went out and lived in these settlements who showed that the sterotypes are wrong (Mangin 1967; Schlyter and Schlyter 1979), but they still persist in the public, among government and civic authorities, and even among scholars.
I think one reason for the endurance of this kind of stereotype is a confusion between visual order and social order. Visual order refers to the kind of regularity in layout that can be perceived by urban residents as well as by those looking at maps or urban photographs. Settlements that are irregular in layout lack visual order. Social order is a deeper and more difficult concept; indeed it has been one of the key issues in sociology and social science for a century (see Hechter and Horne 2003). Briefly, social order refers to the way social groups and societies "hang together" and continue through time in ways that allow many or most people to live "normal" lives.
This diagram shows the way many people think that order works in informal or squatters settlements.
The second diagram shows an alternative view, more closely aligned with urban reality:
|Visual disorder in Lusaka|
|Visual order without central planning (Lima)|
The big difference between these two views of order is that in the second model, social order and visual order are treated as different things. The ethnographers cited above showed that social order exists within visually disordered settlements. People help their neighbors, they watch out for one another, they aren't criminals, they have jobs and lead normal lives (if poverty can be considered "normal," that is). And conversely, social disorder can exist in well-planned, visually ordered settlements; think about crime or anomie in nice planned neighborhoods
The only thing these two models share is the notion that central planning leads to visual order. But don't think that straight streets and checkerboard layouts represent the only kind of urban visual order (Smith 2007). The wide urban world contains many types of visual order, and many kinds of social order. But one does not produce the other. It's time to abandon those stereotypes.
Erickson, B. and T. Lloyd-Jones
1997 Experiments with Settlement Aggregation Models. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design 24:903-928.
Hakim, Besim S.
1986 Arab-Islamic Cities: Building and Planning Principles. Routledge, London.
2007 Generative Processes for Revitalizing Historic Towns or Heritage Districts. Urban Design International 12:87-99.
Hechter, Michael and Christine Horne (editors)
2003 Theories of Social Order: A Reader. Stanford University Press, Stanford.
1952 Urbanization Without Breakdown: A Case Study. Scientific Monthly 75:31-41.
1967 Latin American Squatter Settlements: A Problem and a Solution. Latin American Research Review 2(3):65-98.
Schlyter, Ann and Thomas Schlyter
1979 George: The Development of a Squatter Settlement in Lusaka, Zambia. Swedish National Institute for Building Research, Lund.
Smith, Michael E.2007 Form and Meaning in the Earliest Cities: A New Approach to Ancient Urban Planning. Journal of Planning History 6(1):3-47.
1938 Urbanism as a Way of Life. American Journal of Sociology 44:1-24.