Extracts from In Search of Habitat

May 23, 2016 0 Comments

Extracts from In Search of Habitat

I very rarely actually spend time looking at or reading the books I've published. Part of me is already focused on making the next book, while another part of me is afraid to look too close again and find any new mistakes. 

But recently I found myself going through In Search of Habitat again by Lars Rolfsted Mortensen, particularly the essay. I thought it would be interesting to share some extracts from it. 


"When describing cities in developing countries, distinctions are often made between the planned or formal city and, as its uncontrollable opposite, the unplanned or informal city. This distinction is not only prevalent in a legal framework of planning and ownership; it is equally tied to the conception of economic sectors and spatial entities. Hence, the informal economy designates transactions outside the formal and legal (be it labour, property or criminal activity), whereas the informal city is almost categorically tied to the ubiquitous squatter settlements of the global south and thus de facto considered the city of the urban poor."



"A vast urban expansion of mostly wealthy colonies has been constructed on what is designated as rural land in the Delhi master plan. What differentiates these informal settlements from the squatter settlements is that the residents bought the land in a formal and documented exchange, but the purchase itself was illegal, according to the zoning of the master plan.15 Squatter settlements, on the contrary, are defined precisely by squatting on land not owned by the residents. These two forms of informality differ not only in the wealth of the inhabitants, but also in the rights they enjoy—squatter settlements being deprived of both legally recognised property transactions16 and security against eviction and displacement."



"Eviction is the overarching strategy of urban renewal in metropolitan India, a strategy that has especially far-reaching consequences for the urban poor. In the case of Delhi, Bhan shows how more than 200 evictions have taken place since 1990, displacing more than 60,000 households. The tragic irony, however, is that only around two per cent of the reclaimed land has been reused for housing and almost 25 per cent remains vacant."



"The expansion of metropolitan India through recent decades has seen vast areas of former rural villages and arable land incorporated into the larger metropolitan regions. Although only a third of India’s population is currently urban, the urban expansion has been drastic: Delhi’s and Jaipur’s built-up area expanded more than 80 per cent during the 1990s and Jaipur’s expansion continued at almost the same pace in the 2000s. Yet within these areas of recent expansion, the numerous assimilated villages constitute a significant urban form that is often overlooked: the urban village. Once part of the hinterland, the villages now benefit from being situated within the metropolis, with excessive development taking place on the fringes of the city."



"How did this crisis-ridden condition come about and why is it apparently impossible to cure? At the core of planning, however dysfunctional it may be, is infrastructure. Without well functioning roads, public transport, water supply, power supply, sewage and solid waste management, to name a few, the framework for economic development and settlements will be hampered. Infrastructure is an imperative for the livelihood of city dwellers and a prerequisite for social and cultural spheres to flourish."

All extracts taken from the accompanying essay in In Search of Habitat, written by Lars Rolfsted Mortensen