Idioms of Informality (Lecture by Fran Tonkiss)

November 3 (6 pm, Melbourne time)


A substantial share of urban form emerges from the work of nameless ‘designers’, unplanned development and the everyday investments that shape informal urbanism. This is well established in relation to poor-world urbanism, but is also characteristic of cities where state capacities are more developed, capital more abundant, and planning systems more extensive. Different modes of informal urbanism – while they vary markedly in terms of use, demographics, aesthetics and politics – share certain family resemblances. This session explores various idioms of the informal which put into question a distinction between the designers and the users of space; treat use as the instrument rather than the outcome of urban design; and employ design as a form of direct action in the city. Tactics of informality may have been strongly associated with the urbanism of the poor, but these design idioms run across disparate economic and political situations, and underscore the ways in which poor-world urban strategies speak to the spatial and social dilemmas found in many rich-world cities.

Recorded session