Die Interaktivität von Raum informeller Siedlungen
Kathrien Wieck

Urban informality is a clear expression of the transformation of urban spaces under conditions of global urbanization. Particularly in the megacities of the global South, it highlights the struggle for survival of the socially and economically disadvantaged, one that is also closely interwoven with processes of urban development. Informal settlements are marked by poverty, insecurity and vulnerability. Both political guidelines and scientific studies, with the exception of a few integrative studies, approach informal settlements as a problem of social, spatial and ecological vulnerability, as well as forms of land occupation that situate themselves outside the legal norms. They, however, also display a great deal of the self-organization required to ensure survival. This is expressed through community-based regulation of the settlement areas and a self-constructed infrastructure dependent on urban housing policy and the implementation of slum upgrading projects. Space production is marked by the interactions of various different actor networks and interests, as well as a close relationship between dwellers and their particular housing and settlement areas.

With the goal of developing a more complex understanding of these reciprocal processes, the present study focuses on identifying the interconnectivity between the actors of space production and the spaces of informal settlements. The Manguinhos favela complex in Rio de Janeiro is taken as an example through which to discover how these processes develop and which actor networks are involved. This study’s approach takes a neutral perspective that observes the spaces of informal settlements in the context of their interactivity. From the viewpoint of a space-designing discipline, the object of the study is the development and application of a theoretical-analytic method. The method connects social scientific and architectural approaches that understand space in its interactive role and as a social construct. Development of the method is based on a foundational engagement with Henri Lefebvre’s 1974 work ‘La production de l’espace’ and his understanding of social space. It adopts Lefebvre’s theoretical-methodological approach to decoding urban space both in the process of its production and as a product of the interactions between society and individuals. This study conducts a conceptual and spatial reading of the dimensions of social space. The method looks at the characterization and decoding of spatial interactivity within the settlement and the open space production of informal settlements. It is applied to the example of the Manguinhos complex in Rio de Janeiro, with an analytical examination of 14 ‘comunidades’. Given the historical development processes of the individual settlement spaces, as well as the everyday processes of open space production, the complexity and dynamics of this space production is made visible. This includes the identification of the actor networks involved and their social and spatial practices of interaction, as well as the differentiated spatial structures. .

This study concludes with a formulation of possible development tendencies visible in the observed interactive interfaces between the actors and their settlements and open spaces. This allows for an estimation of the possible tendencies of reproduction and multiplication, but also for the socio-spatial consolidation of informal settlements. It creates a knowledge basis that makes Lefebvre’s theoretical-methodological spatial concept applicable to the analysis of social problems. The actor-space-relationships are identified as interfaces for the prognosis of growth dynamics of informal settlements, which can be made visible with respect to their risk of expanding of an informal land market, but also as the potential for social and spatial regeneration in an urban context. The work can be seen as an interdisciplinary theoretical-analytical contribution towards the enrichment of the scientific discourse on urban informality.