A Pattern Language of Self Construction


  • Ana Rosa Chagas Cavalcanti TU Delft, Architecture and the Built Environment




Labor in favelas was not acknowledged by architects and planners because of the interpretation of the definition of the informal settlement and the slum. Also, by architectural practice and parochial theories, which affect the production of planners and architects. The definition of slums as spaces lacking sanitation and infrastructural components is deeply rooted in both theoretical and institutional definitions of the informal settlement. Nevertheless, the spaces of slums and informal settlements are much more complex and include social-economic aspects of everyday life of its inhabitants. Interpretative tools and intellectual frames are needed to open new perspectives and epistemologies in the field of architecture that are capable to address the needs of únderpriviledged people. This is the ethos of the methodology designed to study informal settlements in the present study.

The finding that work is a fundamental element shaping space dynamics of informal settlement is based on an ethnographic research. To investigate how the social actions of the inhabitants shape them, methodological tools of anthropology (such as ethnography, interviews, oral history) rooted in De Certeau (and participatory research) were combined to the methodology of the Pattern Language (and with methodological tools of architecture such as drawing) to highlight the importance of social practices as shapers of space in in contexts in which the socio-spatial dynamics are not familiar to architects and planners, such as informal settlements.

This methodology is underpinned by architectural imagination and intellectual reflection. It is the architectural imagination that allow architects and planners to create instruments to understand and represent space and new interpretative frames to study space. As for example, the perspective, which was invented when architects such as Bruneleschi experimented to draw over a mirror in a Plaza, in order to represent proportion, focal points and drain lines in the Renaissance Period.


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