Tent Cities As 'Informal Urbanism'

High Country News reports on Fresno's infamous Taco Flat in this 4-pager. Seattle's Nickelsville and Portland's Dignity Village are held up as better examples of squatter settlements. Architecture and 'informal urbanism' of tent cities is examined.

"Tent cities have much in common with the squatter camps of the Great Depression, but to simply call them Hoover-villes is to ignore their complexity. To truly understand them, one must look at current trends in the developing world, where informal urbanism -- a form of "slum" development that takes place outside the conventions of city planning -- is now the predominant mode of city-making.

Informal urbanism, characterized by unauthorized land occupation, makeshift construction and a lack of public utilities, is how many burgeoning nations meet their housing needs. It thrives in places like Fresno, where poverty is endemic and there is a wide gap between rich and poor.

Fresno, which the Brookings Institution ranked in 2005 as the American city with the greatest concentration of poverty, is far from the only place where people are resorting to life in makeshift abodes.

Rahul Mehrotra, a professor at the MIT Institute of Urban Studies and Planning, said there's a real kinship between Taco Flat and the squatter settlements of Mumbai, India, where he runs an architectural firm."

"It's really a reflection of the government's inability to provide housing affordably across society."

"The promise of tent cities begins with their architecture. Makeshift dwellings may not be the dream homes of yesteryear, but they are simple, affordable and sustainable in their use of salvaged materials. With imaginative designers, they could help solve the present housing crisis, a faster alternative to the lengthy process of building low-income apartment complexes and homeless shelters."

Thanks to Annie Dawid

Full Story: Tarp Nation: Squatter villages arise from the ashes of the West's booms and busts

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