How modest, incremental site-driven interventions differ in their impact on slum upgrading from iconic projects

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Rodas, Mario Rene
Dunham-Jones, Ellen
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Urban informal settlements have increased dramatically over the last decades throughout major cities in developing countries. Post war industrialization, increased economic opportunities and social freedoms continue to drive urban-to-rural migration despite of the challenging living conditions in this context. As an example of this phenomenon, approximately 20% of Rio de Janeiro’s six million inhabitants live in the city’s favelas (shanty towns) or other types of informal settlements. Despite physical proximity, rigid class segregation maintains strong physical and social boundaries between the formal and informal city. On the one hand favela residents suffer from a marked social stigma mainly due to the violence and crime associated with local or exterior drug traffic wars in their communities - suggesting the need for top-down "solutions." On the other hand, some scholars are increasingly celebrating the entrepreneurialism of the slums' informal economies and self–organized communal structures, suggesting that successful improvements must be incremental and community-driven. This thesis asks how modest, incremental site-driven interventions differ in their impact on slum upgrading from top down iconic projects. The thesis identifies current strategies of slum upgrading through analysis of both theoretical proposals by scholars and contemporary built projects. The thesis proposes that a hybrid blend of these strategies will address multiple audiences and goals and better guide practitioners on how to intervene and design within these types of spaces. The multiple goals focus on the provision of social integration, self-organization and economic opportunities which will result in bettering the quality of life of the people who live in these communities. This hybrid combination of community networked strategies and iconic gestures is tested and applied in a design proposal for the Complexo da Maré favela compound in Rio de Janeiro.
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