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Towards informal planning : mapping the evolution of spontaneous settlements in time

Iovene, Maddalena and Fernandéz de Córdova, Graciela and Romice, Ombretta and Porta, Sergio (2017) Towards informal planning : mapping the evolution of spontaneous settlements in time. In: 24th ISUF International Conference - City and Territory in the Globalization Age. Universitat Politècnica de València, Valencia, pp. 545-557. ISBN 9788490485743

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Cities are the largest complex adaptive system in human culture and have always been changing in time according to largely unplanned patterns of development. Though urban morphology has typically addressed studies of form in cities, with emphasis on historical cases, diachronic comparative studies are still relatively rare, especially those based on quantitative analysis. As a result, we are still far from laying the ground for a comprehensive understanding of the model of change of the urban form. However, developing such understanding is extremely relevant as the cross-scale interlink between the spatial and social economic dynamics in cities is increasingly recognized to play a major role in the complex functioning of urban systems and quality of life. We study the urban form of San Pedro de Ate, an informal settlement in Lima, Peru, throughout its entire cycle of development over the last seventy years. Our study, conducted through a four-month on-site field research, is based on the idea that informal settlements would change according to patterns similar to those of pre-modern cities, though at a much faster pace of growth. To do so we first digitize aerial photographs of four different time periods (from 1944 to 2005), to then conduct a typo-morphological analysis at four scales: a) building, b) plot, c) block, and d) settlement (comprehensive of open space and street network). We identify and classify patterns of change in the settlement’s urban structure using recognised literature on pre-modern cities, thus supporting our original hypothesis.