Transgressive urbanism : borderlands and urban informality of American cities along the Pan-American Highway

Suau, Cristian (2014) Transgressive urbanism : borderlands and urban informality of American cities along the Pan-American Highway. In: Specifics. Jovis Verlag, Hamburg, pp. 144-149. ISBN 978-3-86859-299-3

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Abstract

Borderlands as ‘new geographies of centrality and marginality’ can be categorised by visible or invisible; hard and soft; formal or informal spatial manifestations. Whilst the attributes of natural boundaries are defined by the internal structure of enclosed territories, the artificial borders delineate a territory from the margins inwards. Man-made borderlands are understood as peripheral or edge voids, buffer lands allotted between frictional political, ethnic and economic shores. They are uninhabited bands or corridors, ‘terrain vagues’, which are usually declared as no man’s lands and therefore vulnerable to processes of severe ecological dereliction and urban and demographic abandonment. This study investigates the urban and edge conditions of fast-growth borderland cities ruled by informal economies in the Americas, which are situated alongside the main transport infrastructure of the Pan-American Highway. This land transport corridor operates as a ‘grand linear urbanism’ and constitutes the economical catalyst of emerging urban economies and new urban scenarios. The instant process of urbanisation has upgraded various informal urban economies to adequate standards of production, consumption and exchange. In terms of regional development, one of the direct impacts of the of the Pan-American Highway -from Alaska to Patagonia- has been the expansion of formal and informal economic and trade corridors along this main infrastructure network, which is shaping the urban structure of border cities and mega-cities. This study reflects on new spatial principles and configurations of border condition and informal metapolisation applied in the border cities and mega-cities of South America. These borders are places of ‘heterotopia’. These urban voids are classified as: (a) ‘terrains vagues’, vacant spaces out of urban regulations or speculative pressures; (b) brownfields, abandoned or underused industrial zones; (c) no-man lands, lands that are unoccupied or under dispute between nations; and (d) slums, defined by the UN-HABITAT as run-down and vast informal settlements within a city. Methodology will involve selective literature review, data collection and spatial analysis (economic, socio-political and environmental mapping); geo-urban analysis and mapping (inclusive digital maps, transects, filmic and photographic recording) and fieldworks.