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Paulo Moreira

Architect and researcher, FAUL-CIAUD-Gestual. Post-doctoral fellow in the Africa Habitat project, at Faculdade de Arquitetura da Universidade de Lisboa, financed by FCT and AKDN (Knowledge for Development Initiative programme), Portugal


To cite this article: MOREIRA, Paulo – Thinking the Informal City, Dossier introduction. Estudo Prévio 19. Lisboa: CEACT/UAL – Centro de Estudos de Arquitetura, Cidade e Território da Universidade Autónoma de Lisboa, 2021, p. 18-21. ISSN: 2182-4339 [Available at: www.estudoprevio.net]. DOI: https://doi.org/10.26619/2182-4339/19.1

Review received on 01 October 2021 and accepted for publication on 05 November 2021
Creative Commons, licença CC BY-4.0: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/


Cities have always harboured ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ populations, and have always contained different areas with different characters. In this respect, there are many cities where the urban poor have been progressively pushed to the outskirts for the sake of a homogenised global culture. At a time when thinking the city is moving towards seeking to accept and understand poor, segregated neighbourhoods, rather than to ignore or eradicate them, the need for new discourses and experiments on the ground is becoming increasingly urgent. It is essential for architects and researchers to tackle the topic, so that this global phenomenon begins to be characterised as a viable type of urban realm. This dossier offers a practical and theorectical reflection on the subject in the architectural field.

Recent urban studies, especially those focusing on the subject of informal cities, have suffered from over-generalisations. Here, however, I call for the importance of paying particular attention to concrete local conditions. Geographic differentiations should be addressed not only between different continents (Africa, Asia, Europe, and so on) or regions (sub-Saharan Africa, South America, for instance), but also on a more local scale (concrete neighbourhoods, or parts of neighbourhoods). In this way, we would approach the city from the particular to the general – the specificity of a building or a neighbourhood would be constantly placed within its broader urban context. Hence, design projects or investigations on informal neighbourhoods would become more than simply explorations of informal architectural order. Rather, they would become contributions to understanding cities in all their depth.