Reforming City Management To Meet The Needs Of All Residents

hillside favela in Rio de Janiero
1 rio de janeiro slum 2010 photo by chensiyuan is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
Favelas, often considered a scourge on the landscape, team with life and have a lot to offer.

This post is a portal to two series of articles. Both call for resident-centric planning in cities. Decent housing and thriving communities are at the core of both. Both support bottom up approaches to planning, which engage residents in planning and development of the communities where they live. Both look closely at informal settlements (e.g. barrios, favelas). They make fascinating reading for anyone who is engaged in developing housing for/with people who have been shut out of the private housing market.

The first series is centred on Rio de Janeiro’s Favelas, although the author draws evidence from developments around the world. Natalia Meléndez Fuentes proposes a conceptual pyramid of ideas, which draws partly on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need,1 as a way to incorporate all of the elements that comprise community. Meléndez Fuentes advances arguments in favour of community land trusts as a model of non-market housing development. The first two of her six part series have been published in RioOnWatch: A Pyramidal Approach to Rio de Janeiro’s Favelas, Part 1: Rethinking Informality Through Placemaking and A Pyramidal Approach to Favelas, Part 2: Regularization, Basic Needs, and Community Participation

The second series of articles discusses informal settlements and social/public housing. It amplifies the work of Christopher Alexander, a US-based architect who has been critical of his profession and urban planning processes. His indictment: together they reduce housing to an economic commodity. Further, they alienate residents from their homes and community. The authors of this series have applied Alexander’s ideas across different countries. Through this experience, they have created an evidence based approach to planning and developing communities that starts with residents’ aspirations.

This series includes a critique of social housing projects, arguing that the housing as developed discourages residents from developing any sense of community or home. Drawing on the experience of informal settings, the authors outline a process for developing successful social housing projects.

These ideas were first presented at a conference in Brazil in 2006. Subsequently, the papers are being translated to English and presented as nine articles in ArchDaily, starting with Socially-Organized Housing: Design That Establishes Emotional Ownership. To date, the published articles include


  1. For more on Maslow’s famous work, see in Wikipedia: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs