Self-organised initiatives: a planners’ subversive tool for fragmented urban spaces

  • Igor Tempels Moreno Pessôa TU Delft, Architecture and the Built Environment


Self-organised initiatives are abundant in Brazil. Nevertheless, it is not clear how these informal, bottom-up and self-organised initiatives, supported by urban planners, are shaping the built environment. This chapter investigates whether these self-organised initiatives are able to undermine the underlying dynamics of spatial fragmentation in Brazilian metropolises by promoting social connections between groups that are extremely diverse. Since self-organised initiatives not only promote spatial connections but also social connections between different groups, the primary premise of this study is that they will have a positive impact on reducing the spatial fragmentation present in Brazilian metropolises. Therefore, the central question here is: To what extent can self-organised initiatives promote social connection in the public spaces of highly fragmented and unequal urban contexts? The analysis was based on data collected from 22 in-depth interviews with members of self-organised initiatives, experts as well as field observations during some actions of the initiatives. The interviews were conducted in Brasília, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo during two months of fieldwork


Ahmadi, D. (2017). Living with diversity in Jane-Finch. TU Delft, A+BE | Architecture and the Built Environment No 12 (2017). Retrieved from

Ashby, W. R. (1947). Principles of the Self-Organizing Dynamic System. The Journal of General Psychology, 37(2), 125-128. doi:10.1080/00221309.1947.9918144

Balbo, M. (1993). Urban Planning and the fragmented city of developing countries. Third World Planning Review, 15, 23-35.

Balbo, M., & Navez-Bouchanine, F. (1995). Urban Fragmentation as a Research Hypothesis: Rabat-Salé Case Study. Habitat International, 19(4), 571-582.

Bank, W. (2016). GINI index. In W. Bank (Ed.).

Bayón, M. C. & Saraví, G. A. (2013). The cultural dimensions of urban fragmentation: Segregation, sociability, and inequality in Mexico City. Latin American Perspectives, 40(2), 35-52.

Bénit-Gbaffou, C. (2008). Unbundled security services and urban fragmentation in post-apartheid Johannesburg. Geoforum, 39(6), 1933-1950.

Çakir, G., Ün, C., Baskent, E. Z., Köse , S., Sivrikaya, F. & Keleş, S. (2008). Evaluating urbanization, fragmentation and land use/land cover change pattern in Istanbul city, Turkey from 1971 to 2002. Land Degradation and Development, 19(6), 663-675.

Castells, M. (2004). The network society : a cross-cultural perspective. Cheltenham, UK ; Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Pub.

Cortes, J. M. G. (2008). Politicas Do Espaço: Senac Editora.

Da Silva, C. C. R., & Rojas-Pierola, R. R. (2018). Economic dynamics of an urban space in dispute. Largo da Batata, São Paulo (Brazil). Bitacora Urbano Territorial, 28(1), 163-174. doi:10.15446/bitacora.v28n1.68331

Dam, R. v., Eshuis, J., & Aarts, N. (2009). Transition starts with people: self-organising communities ADM and Golf Residence Dronten. In K. Poppe, C. Termeer, & M. Slingerland (Eds.), Transitions: Towards sustainable agriculture and food chains in peri-urban areas (pp. 81-92).

de la Espriella, C. (2007). Designing for equality: Conceptualising a tool for strategic territorial planning. Habitat International, 31(3-4), 317-332. doi:10.1016/j.habitatint.2007.04.003

Eigen, M. (1971). Molecular self-organization and the early stages of evolution. Quarterly Reviews of Biophysics, 4(2&3), 149-212.

Fainstein, S. S. (2010). The just city. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Fincher, R., & Iveson, K. (2008). Planning and Diversity in the City: redistribution, recognition and encounter. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Finn, D. (2014). DIY urbanism: implications for cities. Journal of Urbanism, 7(4), 381-398. doi:10.1080/1754 9175.2014.891149

Foerster, H., & Zoepf, G. W. (1962). Principles of Self-Organisation. New York: Pergamon.

Fox-Rogers, L., & Murphy, E. (2016). Self-perceptions of the role of the planner. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 43(1), 74-92. doi:10.1177/0265813515603860

Friedmann, J. (2010). Place and Place-Making in Cities: A Global Perspective. Planning Theory & Practice, 11(2), 149-165. doi:10.1080/14649351003759573

Haken, H. (1983). Synergetics : an introduction : nonequilibrium phase transitions and self-organization in physics, chemistry, and biology (3rd rev. and enl. ed.). Berlin ; New York: Springer.

Heylighen, F. (2008). Complexity and Self-organization. In M. J. Bates & M. N. Maack (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Janoschka, M. (2002). New urban structure models of Latin American cities: Fragmentation and privatization. EURE - Revista Latinoamericana de Estudios Urbano Regionales, 28(85), 11-29.

Kaufmann, D., & Kraay, A. (2018). The Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI). from World Bank http://info.

Kee, T., & Miazzo, F. (2014). We own the city : enabling community practice in architecture and urban planning. Amsterdam: TrancityxValiz.

Klaufus, C. (2017). All-inclusiveness versus exclusion: Urban project development in Latin America and Africa. Sustainability, 9(11).

Klink, J., & Denaldi, R. (2012). Metropolitan fragmentation and neo-localism in the periphery: Revisiting the case of curitiba. Urban Studies, 49(

Kotus, J., & Hławka, B. (2010). Urban neighbourhood communities organised on-line – A new form of self-organisation in the Polish city? Cities, 27(4), 204-214. doi:

Lydon, M., & Garcia, A. (2015). Tactical Urbanism. Washington, DC: Island Press.

Maricato, E. (2011). O Impasse da Política Urbana no Brasil. Petrópolis, RJ - Brazil: Vozes.

Maricato, E., Lobo, B. G., & Leitão, K. (2009). Fighting for Just Cities in capitalism’s periphery. In Searching for the Just City: Debates in Urban Theory and Practice (pp. 194-213).

Musset, A. (2015). The just city’s myth, a neoliberal cheatings. Bitacora Urbano Territorial, 25(1), 11-20. doi:10.15446/bitacora.v1n25.53216

Newman, L., Waldron, L., Dale, A., & Carriere, K. (2008). Sustainable urban community development from the grassroots: Challenges and opportunities in a pedestrian street initiative. Local Environment, 13(2), 129- 139. doi:10.1080/13549830701581879

Nunbogu, A. M., Korah, P. I., Cobbinah, P. B., & Poku-Boansi, M. (2017). Doing it ‘ourselves’: Civic initiative and self-governance in spatial planning. Cities. doi:

Portugali, J. (1999). Self-organization and the city. New York: Springer.

Rauws, W. (2016). Civic initiatives in urban development: self-governance versus self-organisation in planning practice. Town Planning Review, 87(3), 339-361. doi:10.3828/tpr.2016.23

Sabatini, F., & Salcedo, R. (2007). Gated communities and the poor in Santiago, Chile: Functional and symbolic integration in a context of aggressive capitalist colonization of lower–class areas. Housing Policy Debate, 18(3), 577-606. doi:10.1080/10511482.2007.9521612

Sager, T. (2016). Activist planning: a response to the woes of neo-liberalism? European Planning Studies, 24(7), 1262-1280. doi:10.1080/09654313.2016.1168784

Santos, M. (1990). Metrópole Corporativa Fragmentada: o caso de São Paulo. São Paulo: Nobel.

Schmidt-Thome, K., Wallin, S., Laatikainen, T., Kangasoja, J., & Kyttä, M. (2014). Exploring the use of PPGIS in self-organizing urban development: Case softGIS in Pacific Beach (Vol. 10).

Swyngedouw, E., & Moulaert, F. (2010). Can neighbourhoods save the city? : community development and social innovation / edited by Frank Moulaert ... [et al.]. In F. Moulaert (Ed.), Regions and cities. (pp. 219–234). New York: Routledge.

Taşan-Kok, T., & Oranje, M. (2017). From Student to Urban Planner: Young Practitioners’ Reflections on Contemporary Ethical Challenges: Taylor & Francis.

Vilaça, F. (2011). São Paulo: Segregação urbana e desigualdade. Estudos Avançados, 25(71), 37-58.

Watson, V. (2014). Co-production and collaboration in planning - The difference. Planning Theory and Practice, 15(1), 62-76. doi:10.1080/14649357.2013.866266

Watson, V., & Siame, G. (2018). Alternative participatory planning practices in the global south: Learning from co-production processes in informal communities. In Public Space Unbound: Urban Emancipation and the Post-Political Condition (pp. 143-157).

Winkler, T. (2009). Prolonging the global age of gentrification: Johannesburg’s regeneration policies. Planning Theory, 8(4), 362-381. doi:10.1177/1473095209102231

Wunsch, J. S. (2013). Analyzing self-organized local governance initiatives: Are there insights for decentralization reforms? Public Administration and Development, 33(3), 221-235.
How to Cite
MORENO PESSÔA, Igor Tempels. Self-organised initiatives. A+BE | Architecture and the Built Environment, [S.l.], n. 4, p. 101-120, may 2019. ISSN 2214-7233. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 14 aug. 2020.