Slums are…Trendy?


It seems to be increasingly popular to discuss ‘slums’ as urban conditions that merit fetishistic interest. For instance – Koolhaas is now enamored with Lagos, Nigeria, and the idea of the ‘informality’ of the city’s growth. Specifically, real quick, I wanted to point everyone to this post from the GSD:ecologicalurbanism blog that ran parallel to the GSD’s Ecological Urbanism conference last week.

Orhan Ayyuce:
What do you think of the current interest in slum communities. It is almost unfortunately ‘interesting’ to talk about slums and their informality. May I say that the trend started around the time you published Planet of Slums?”

Mike Davis:
You know, in architecture school most people talk about icons and counter icons, rather than try to understand the larger social networks, hierarchies, and conditions that produce particular types of urbanisms. That is taken to its highest level of trendiness by Rem Koolhaas. His stuff on Lagos is crazy… In my mind it is a sleazy apology for social evil.

If you want to see human self organization at work, go to Lagos, but face the poverty and oppression by the military regime … Maybe he should talk to my friend *Chris Abani about that stuff… Chris would laugh at his hyperbolic exercise…


It’s interesting that this urban condition has received so much attention recently – as the interest in these sprawling ‘slums’ is coming from Western / developed nations, and I’m unsure of how you can take aspects from these environments and translate / integrate them into existing cities. The infatuation seems to stem from 2 elements – ‘informality’ and scale – both of which are based in necessity, not necessarily desirability. And while yes, millions and millions of people live in these slum communities, I feel as if suggesting that they’re  cultural element to be learned-from is some bougie European BS.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m not surprised that people formed these communities independent of planners and architects and Rem Koolhaas. People are smart – they tend to figure shit out, it seems, when they need to. That, and mostly that if these ninjas could be out the slums, they’d be ghosts. So if the communities design themselves, and [assuming] inhabitants who can leave don’t want to re-create these conditions someplace else, what’s with all the commentary? People are really just pointing out that Lagos is fascinating and quaint or something That doesnt seem ignorant to anyone else? A Dutch guy being condescending about some Africans? What?

.:Mike Davis on Koolhaas’ Lagos – By Guest Blogger Orhan Ayyuce -> via GSD:ecologicalurbanism

Posted: April 9th, 2009
at 1:50am by orangemenace

Categories: architecture,my ninja, please,urban/master planning,starchitects

Comments: 1 comment


One Response to 'Slums are…Trendy?'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'Slums are…Trendy?'.

  1. I agree fully. I live in SA and when we tried to implement low cost housing to replace the slums, people either didn’t live in the houses at all, or they moved in and built extentions onto the brick housing with the old reliable corrugated sheet metal. The people living in the slums are accustomed to their life styles there. All they really need are steady water supplies and electricity. Creating new ‘neighbourhoods’ for them to live in will take a long time to implement successfully.


    21 Apr 09 at 1:18 am



Leave a Reply