Compact Cities and Informal Settlements

Exploring qualities, drivers and strategies for promoting sustainable urban development

Buenos Aires | Cape Town | Havana | Kisumu

Project leader: Maria José Zapata Campos

Research and policy argue for more compact cities to respond to sustainable development challenges. However, there is little clarity on what actually needs to be made more compact. This is especially the case for informal settlements in Sub-Saharan Africa, where generic, North notions of urban qualities, are even detrimental to positive urban change. This project contributes to a precise and operational understanding of which qualities should be the result of more compact cities and how such qualities can be promoted.

The aim of the present project is to contribute to a more precise and operational understanding of which qualities should be resulting from more compact cities and how such qualities can be promoted and realized – all of this with a focus on informal settlement contexts in the global South cities. This will be achieved by meeting the following objectives:

  1. To develop a consistent, efficient and useful system of metrics for urban qualities linked to urban compactness and informal settlements of the global South
  2. To develop an integrated understanding of urban development drivers of different kinds and at different levels in contexts of prevalent informality and urban compactness
  3. To develop recommendations for inclusive strategies and strategy-making processes supporting transitions towards beneficial urban development patterns in informal settlements

The project will apply case study methods, including document studies, ethnographic and participatory observations, interviews, focus groups and stakeholder workshops. The focus of the project is on urban change in informal settlements in Kisumu (Kenya), but field studies in other global South cities will facilitate comparative learning and enhanced validity. Insights and recommendations will be useful in wider South (and potentially North) contexts, as they will contribute to the understanding of how to improve living conditions and life opportunities for the urban poor.