The Opportunity of Scarcity
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 consolidated over time. For this project, 48 lots selected across neighborhoods in Mexico City were selected to be reproduced as models and presented here for visitors to rearrange and imagine a new urban landscape. This installation recognizes the constantly transforming common space, usually present in informal family lots, as key to a much-needed alternative urban vision that embraces incremental and feasible change.
This project delves into the opportunity that the informal/formal state of flux presents as a process of the production of space at this moment of crisis. According to many projections, housing demand around the world will almost double by 2100, with a very significant increase occurring in the Global South. Additionally, climate change-induced migrations are expected to grow in the coming decades and many developed countries face a deficit of affordable urban housing due to rising demand and costs of construction.
Countries in the Global South, however, navigate parallel roads producing on one hand, formal housing—associated with order, repetition, and planning—and on the other, informal housing, partially recognized, and self-built. Formal and informal are not antithetical, instead, they are intertwined in a “dialectical urbanization logic.” 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 residents make over time. Conversely, informal settlements undergo a consolidation process by the provision of public infrastructure and land regularization resulting in a de facto modality of city making.
What is fundamentally needed is a new understanding of the social collective and to recalibrate the relationship between the public, the collective, and the private.
Ultimately, this installation serves as a ground to continuously recompose a vision formed by relating existing unconnected sites on the periphery of Mexico City through open spaces. For this installation, visitors are invited to rearrange the site models and add amenities, such as gardens, paths, benches, trees—made by artisans in Mexico—to reimagine urban landscape in Mexico City and offer inspiration for similar alternative futures for empty lots in Chicago. In this installation, The Available City suggests the notion of an emerging utopia on the fringes of progress and development. A lateral utopia carried out by the accumulation of un-orchestrated single responses to conditions of scarcity that may lead us to imagine better alternative futures.