As the world rapidly urbanizes, with an expected 7 billion people living in cities by 2050, some three billion people will be living in informal settlements or inadequate housing. Moreover 50% of urban employment is found in the informal economy. Though seen as a blight to the city, the work and everyday practices of these people demonstrate how they are indeed the lifeblood of the city. Thailand has made leaps forward in addressing the situation of the urban poor through bottom-up community secure housing programmes as well as top-down models for upgrading informal settlements. Although these initiatives are effective in ‘reactively’ managing the urban challenges after they arise, they do not ‘preventively’ solve the real issue of the prevalence of slums or squatter settlements in the first place.
This research asks how can cities promote inclusive and sustainable urbanism, particularly for the urban poor thus allowing them to participate as citizens? The paper explores different design tactics of channeling the creative and adaptive capacities of urban low-income and poor communities in the Global South to create spaces for themselves, allowing them to exercise their right to the city.
By harnessing architectural and urban design strategies, the design research aims to mediate between the formal and the informal, learning from the innovative, ingenious, and self-organized adaptations from informal urban practices. The outcomes show how necessity creates its own internal logics which may look disorderly from an outsider, but highly systematized and coherent from within, challenging formal design solutions to informal issues.