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Urban informality as a generator for meaningful built form : towards a multi-purpose trade hub for Durban, South Africa.

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Urban informality is a process established by people in the informal urban context to shape existing formal cities to form new informal cities that facilitate their everyday lives. This phenomenon has grown substantially in Latin American, Asian and African cities to a point that people have transformed many of their formal post-colonial cities within these regions to informal cities that can facilitate urban informality. Instead of seeing this process as a way where people living in the informal urban context are trying to create cities and infrastructure that suite their context and way of life, architects and urban design professionals are repeatedly adopting 'western norms‘ to solve urban informality rather than facilitating it. This starts to create a gap between the architectural built form and the way people live. The research was then undertaken to bridge this gap between built form making and the lived realities in the informal urban context by using the underlying principles of urban informality defined by the people to generate meaningful built form within the South African, African context. To achieve this, the research carried out investigations on current literature that dealt with three main principles that defined urban informality that could be used to generate an appropriate built form with the informal urban context. These principles were; socio- economic principles, emergence and the culture of urban informality and these started to suggest a flexible built form that can be adapted by its users to suit their needs. These principles were then tested against precedent and case studies to see their validity in the global and South African context. Qualitative interviews were conducted with a number of professionals that had a better understanding of the case studies than the author to make sure that the analyses and the conclusions based on those analyses were accurate. The research findings ultimately defined an indeterminate built form that is formed through a participatory process between the collaboration of urban design professionals and the future inhabitants of the built form. This built form is 'loosely‘ defined and its inhabitants can manipulate and reconfigure it, to a certain extent, to suit the future unforeseen states of urban informality. The research also outlined a framework that can be applied in the design phase of a multi-purpose trade hub in Durban, South Africa.


M. Arch. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban 2013.


Squatter settlements--KwaZulu-Natal--Durban., Urbanization--KwaZulu-Natal--Durban., Informal sector (Economics)--KwaZulu-Natal--Durban., Small business--KwaZulu-Natal--Durban., Shopping centres--KwaZulu-Natal--Durban., Retail trade--KwaZulu-Natal--Durban., Theses--Architecture.