Futures 2084



Author: Anabella Acevedo Peña

Slums are seen as violent and dangerous settlements, origin of the urban problems, strange and disgusting mass of houses or ranchos, put on top of one another without any order. However, what if we are focusing on them from the wrong point of view? What if slums are not the problem, rather part of the solution to housing? In this sense, Germán Samper recognizes 3 processes that are crucial to understand the importance of slums: self-construction, productive and progressive housing. As aesthetically unpleasant as slums might be to some people, they have provided benefits and very important insight. Contrary to its pejorative perception and stigmatization, slums rise today as potential urban clusters where self-organized and participative solutions can be developed to address challenges of health, job, income, education, but also issues of housing deficiency, urban inequality, social justice, inclusive development.

Setting up a fictional and hypothetical scenery in which slums have never existed, what would current cities look like today? Inspecting parallel universes and comparing them to our reality makes slums less bad. In fact, these have become the most important parts of our present and even future cities. Let’s imagine that slums never occurred, never existed, never even happened, that people were not capable of self-constructing their own houses. What would have been of them? Would everyone be able to get a proper house or, on the contrary, would a percentage of the population be homeless or in terrible housing conditions? My hypothesis is that the possibility of shaping a just and equitable city is only conceivable thanks to the existence of slums.

Currently, the need for housing increases constantly, and will continue to do so over time. Some fortunate people would have the means to pay for that in the city, others would not have the same luck, and in the meantime, the state was, is and will be unable to provide enough affordable dwelling for everybody. Accepting and understanding the future implications of this unequal and segregated context leads to the necessity of changing the model, the way housing is provided and how the city is shaped, in order to avoid an increase and acceleration of urban poverty.

The Slumniverse is not conceived as a project, rather than a program: it would be about the how, why and who. More importantly, it’s a work in-progress, possibly without a finishing date. Understanding and embracing the concepts of self-construction, progressive and productive housing would be an indispensable part in the general education of the society. In the future, slums and its methods will become the most crucial part of city-making. Spontaneous settlements would be integrated to the urban fabric and recognized as an important sector of the city, rather than continue being peripheral and excluded. The stigmatization of slums, hopefully, would be over, and therefore considered as innovative clusters of the new urban life.


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