Archive for Base 5: Informal Cities

A “Confluence of the Homeless” on Ohio Riverbanks

by Lara

I wanted to add to my last post on slums in warmer climates by adding that informal communities exist in all climates, but I feel the way they manifest themselves in different way. Slums in tropical climates (at least form my experience) seem overwhelmingly massive, pushed to the fringes of urban settlements but in a very inclusive manner. At least in Barranquilla, the massive informal settlements engulf surrounding areas but are generally accepted a a part of the city, albeit a poor area of the city.

Columbus, Ohio may be a temperate climate, but that doesn’t mean shantytowns do not exist. A few years ago, there was a major uprising when the city decided to shut down one of the largest informal settlements, mostly of homeless people that existed on the banks of the Olentangy River, literally in the hub of the city, and close to downtown. Most people had no idea this even existed because a highway passed next to most of the river, and the community was by and large mostly hidden from the public.

Shantytowns and othe informal settlements seem to exists with a pretty high frequency in the area of appalachia as well, but unlike their neighbors to the south, these seem to be pretty socially marginalized.

Slums and Warm Climates

By lara

My mother is from Colombia, South America so visiting my family every few years I was always familiar of the concept of tropical urban slums which often seemed like miles and miles of garbage, even Barranquilla’s “slum town” which stretched from the inner suburbs out to the airport seemed walled off from the rest of the world by walls of people’s refuse. The idea of the “slum” or the “sprawling shantytown” was something I had never encountered in the states, and is still a pattern of settlement that I sometimes feel seems exist in a unique way to countries with warmer climates, on that scale of horizontal sprawl. The geological implictions of this are interesting- building makeshift housing may be easier when there is not the issue of cold, as there is less need to be inside or to build material heavy structures for protection against the cold, but heavy rains, and spread of disease are more damaging in warmer and tropical climates which adds to the continuous rebuilding and restructuring of slum neighborhoods.

Not to over simplify the issue of urban sprawl and the settlement of urban slums which have been heavily studied and are an incredibly complicated mix of socio, economic, cultural, and geographic factors. It just always seemed to me interesting the way poverty and lack of resource spreads differently across climates.