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The Opportunity of Scarcity

Chicago, United States.


According to diverse projections, housing demand around the world will almost double by 2100, with a very significant part of it in the global south.  In addition, environment induced migrations are expected to grow in the upcoming decades. Today, a moment of crisis has been reached, as many developed countries face a deficit of affordable housing in their main cities given the lack of viable schemes to produce it in the quantities necessary and under the cost required.

On the other hand, countries in the global south, navigate on parallel roads producing housing on the formal official scheme, associated with order, repetition and planning or on the informal sector, partially recognized, built by self- construction mechanisms.


This dialectical understanding gives the illusion that there are only two options, but formal and informal are not polar opposites, on the contrary, they are intertwined in a “dialectical urbanization logic”1.


If physical manifestation serves as an indicator, formal social housing developments and informal settlements evolve in a two-way relationship. Repetitive formally produced single-family units usually become unrecognizable over the years, given the multiple and differentiated additions and adaptations over time. In the opposite direction, informal settlements undergo a consolidation process by the provision of public infrastructure and land regularization resulting in a de facto modality of city making. 


The proposal delves into the opportunity that the informal/formal state of flux presents as a process of production of space and as a porous existing milieu at this moment of crisis. What is fundamentally needed is a new understanding of the social collective. From this point on, we need to recalibrate the relationship between the public, the collective and the private. 


The metropolitan area of Mexico City, has a population of approximately 22 million inhabitants. More than 60% of its surface has been urbanized by means of informal settlements that consolidate over time. From some of these neighborhoods, 48 lots were selected to be used as pieces to be rearranged.


The installation recognizes the constantly transforming common space, as the articulator and enabler of an alternative urban vision.


More than a finalized and impeccable piece, the installation serves as a ground to continuously recompose vision formed by relating existing unconnected sites on the periphery of Mexico City through their open space. Invites visitor participation, to mix the mindset of Chicago empty lot potential with the opportunity of a shift in the usual process of consolidation of informal settlements.




1 Gilbert, L., & De Jong, F. (2015). Entanglements of Periphery and Informality in Mexico City. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 39(3), 520.


@elcielo_mx : Surella Segú, Armando Hashimoto, Diana Mejía, Leonor Flores, Alejandro García; crochet artists: Rosa Hernández, Nuria Hernández @madexha, Annerose Müler, Perla Zepeda, Sofía Traslosheros, Renata López, Lucy Solis, Jesús López @xuxolopeza, Victoria López, Erika López, Antonio Guzmán @tejegurumis, Paola Monroy, Claudia Ramos, Surella Segú, Hana Hashimoto, Ren Hashimoto. Model and table fabrication: Doug Johnston

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