URBAN DESIGN International

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 4–21 | Cite as

Urban villages and informal settlements as protagonists of urban futures

  • Christoph Lueder
Original Article


Urban villages, defined as ‘communities engulfed by rapid urbanization’, often are regarded as receding phenomena, destined to gradually disappear or abruptly be relinquished as their economic base in agriculture or craft is displaced by the industrial and services sector. However, resonances in structure and modus operandi link ancestral to informal settlements and to an informal economy that provides new employment opportunities. Hence, the complex mechanisms by which urban villages and informal settlements are able to resist as well as absorb urban development, merit renewed attention. In a series of collaborations with local academic and community partners, I have documented three urban villages, each exemplary for a particular model and context of development. The diverse spectrum of strategies and formats of resilience spawned by the three communities inform methods of enquiry into how cities might learn from urban villages. I examine three communities, situated in Amman, Valparaiso and Bangkok, exploring first their strategic responses to context and topography, and second, the pivotal role of inherited or remembered spatial typologies in processes of urbanization driven by feedback obtained continuously from the actions and experience of construction and inhabitation.


urban villages informal urbanization topography typology open poché 



The author would like to thank Andrea Pino Vasquez of Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María; Lautaro Ojeda Ledesma of Universidad de Valparaíso, Chile; Preechaya Sittipunt, Scott Drake, Carl Fredrik Hellberg of Chulalongkorn University Bangkok, Thailand; Mohammad Aljabi, Liyan Aljabi, Heba Alnajada, Samar Dudin of Ruwwad and the German Jordanian University Amman, Jordan; and the communities of Cerro de la Cruz, Ban Krua, Jabal Al Natheef, for making possible the research that led to this article. All drawings were drawn by Alexandru Malaescu, Iulia Fratila and the author, unless otherwise attributed.


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kingston University LondonKingston-upon-ThamesUK

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