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Under the Bo-Tree: An Alternate View of Urban Informality

Part 2 Dissertation 2021
Virosh Samuel
University of Westminster | UK
Modernist and colonial ideas of formal and informal settlements cause the latter to have negative connotations. This doesn't allow for an understanding of their complex nature nor recognition of the role informality plays in developing countries. The study draws parallels between informality and Rudofsky's theorisations of the ‘vernacular’ to better understand informal settlements. The vernacular was a communal enterprise, a spontaneous and continuing activity of a whole people with a common heritage.

Colombo today has over 1700 informal settlements that the state plans to relocate as the city develops. This raises the question of re-housing; How best can we approach re-housing a settlement that is self-formed and constantly changing with the evolving needs and diverse identities of the inhabitants?

This dissertation seeks to understand the intertwined social and architectural dynamics of a Colombo informal settlement, and through this to evaluate a series of rehousing projects. Informal settlements develop in response to the inhabitants needs, responding organically as the community creates spaces that encourage the interdependency that is so important in overcoming their individual vulnerabilities. It's this relationship between communal reciprocity and architecture that this dissertation unpacks, offering models for understanding the spatialisation of social interdependency that could inform future housing.

Virosh Samuel

Shaed Saleem
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