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Title: The alternative space : informal settlements and life chances in Belém, Brazil
Author: Duarte Cardoso, Ana Cláudia
ISNI:       0000 0001 3519 7630
Awarding Body: Oxford Brookes University
Current Institution: Oxford Brookes University
Date of Award: 2002
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Informal settlements have usually been seen as chaotic and disordered spaces in cities of the developing world and, from the elites' perspective, something to be ashamed of. There is a great deal of knowledge about their economic causes; however, little is known about the underlying spatial structures of these settlements or about how much spatial variables influence inhabitants' decision to settle in these precarious environments. A theoretical framework was designed in order to allow a bottom-up approach to the research, able to take into account the inhabitants' motivations and achievements during the process of informal settlements' spatial transformation and integration into the formal city. The framework was built upon the concepts of poverty and of life chances. The latter is defined by Darhendorf (1979, 1988) as a person's long term prospects, brought about by choices between available options and according to his/her social objectives. The concept is constituted of three elements, entitlements (lawful means of access), provision (material supply) and ligatures (all types of human motivation). Socio-economic variables were selected as indicators of life chances' enhancement, and were subjected to tools of analysis from different branches of urban morphology and space syntax, to build a spatial dimension to life chances. Cross-tabulation between the socio-economic and the spatial variables was used to assess the potential of life chances delivered by the space of the five case study areas investigated, each one presenting a different stage along the process of consolidation. This thesis views the process of consolidation as resulting from the association between location, configuration, timescale and actions of different agents. Overall, the evidence suggests that informal settlements in Belém are a negotiated response to a context of inequality, scarcity and inhabitants' desire for integration into urban life. These settlements present a fragile balance between people and space; the exploitation of the natural environment and reliance on social networks give the means to acquire provisions that would never be possible otherwise. The space of informal settlement is flexible, organised and potentially well linked to the existing city; but it needs the help of other agents to be consolidated. There seems to be an optimal synchronisation between minimum improvements to attract the better-off who earn money outside the settlements, and maximum provision that should not exceed the poorest's affordability limit. The research combines spatial and socio-economic theories, unveiling their potential for successful practical application. The spatial approach associates different techniques of analysis created in different branches of urban morphology, contributing to their integration as a set of tools for professional involved with urban design. The research findings highlight the importance of physical standards and solutions adopted by upgrading actions in informal settlements, and provide evidence on which to ground government and funding agencies' changes in priorities and procedures of upgrade.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Brazilian Ministry of Education
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Spatial transformation