Formality x Informality

Book-launch: how do informal urban interventions interact, meet and challenge urban masterplans?

Worldwide, but especially in the Global South, fast processes of urbanization are changing and shaping the cities of tomorrow -but for whom? In their newest book 'To Build a City in Africa’, authors Michelle Provoost & Rachel Keeton describe how the African New Towns trend caters to middle- and upperincome groups, while disregarding the majority of the (low-income) urban dwellers. How can formal and informal urban planning contribute to inclusive cities. A conversation with Michelle Provoost, Rachel Keeton and special guest Alfredo Brillembourg.

About Cities Build in Africa

Africa has become the world’s fastest urbanising continent. This urbanisation is a huge challenge in areas with fragile institutional frameworks and chronic poverty. Existing cities often become overcrowded and congested. In response to this, both state and private developers increasingly see a market for New Towns – comprehensively planned, mixed-use urban developments on greenfield sites. To illustrate the extent of this phenomenon, authors Michelle Provoost & Rachel Keeton calculate that if all the New Towns in Africa announced by 2018 meet their targets, 77 million people in Africa (or nearly 10 percent of the total urban population), will be living in New Towns by 2030. In many cases, these New Towns end up attracting mainly international companies and catering exclusively to the middle- and upper-income groups, disregarding the low-income groups who make up the majority of Africa’s urban dwellers, and failing to adequately address ecological vulnerabilities.

In To Build a City in Africa, Provoost & Keeton explore the complex implications of these new developments through interviews with different stakeholders, in-depth case studies of five African New Towns, and essays that elaborate specific issues connected to these New Towns. An Atlas places these developments within a broader geographical and historical context, examining related aspects such as fertility, mortgage rates, and car ownership. The conclusions of the research are presented in the Manual, a set of ten design and planning principles. The Manual offers an alternative approach for planners, developers and other decision-makers aiming to construct more inclusive and sustainable New Towns in Africa.

About Urban-Think Tank

Urban-Think Tank (U-TT), an interdisciplinary design practice founded in 1998 by Alfredo Brillembourg and Hubert Klumpner, which delivers innovative yet practical solutions through the combined skills of architects, civil engineers, environmental planners, landscape architects, and communication specialists. It emerged from the turbulent political environment of Chávez-era Caracas, and has pursued projects in Latin America, Europe, and Africa for almost twenty years. Their diverse work positioned the firm at the forefront of a social turn in architecture in the late 1990s, with concrete urban interventions encouraging social cohesion in the megacities of the Global South and Europe’s evolving metropoles.

U-TT has also produced numerous media projects that harness film, theater, exhibitions, and print to create new discursive spaces and question how our cities are shaped, and for whom. Most notable is its work on the squatted skyscraper, Torre David, which became the improvised home for a community of over 1,000 families living in an extra-legal and tenuous occupation that many called a vertical slum.


Cover image: © Patrick de Bruin.

In collaboration with

  • Urban Talk

Woensdag 19 juni 17.30 - 19.30
Pakhuis de Zwijger, Piet Heinkade 179, 1019 HC, Amsterdam

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