Thursday, 31 January 2013

Polvos azules

Beneath Its Polished Surface, a Black-Market Shopping Center Thrives

In one of the busiest shopping complexes in downtown Lima, thousands of Peruvians squeeze past each other in narrow corridors and jockey for space in tiny rooms. Music blasts from stalls as shopkeepers try to lure customers with their seemingly infinite rows of goods. The smell of food and plastic lingers in the air.

This is Polvos Azules, an epicenter of retail activity in Lima and a place often referred to (in oxy moron) as the city’s “official informal market.” Legend has it that Polvos Azules, Spanish for “blue powders,” got its name in the 1540s from the material used by leather artisans to dye their skins on a small street behind the Presidential Palace. Five centuries later, the capitalist spirit embodied by those early merchants is alive and well, their leather goods replaced by faux-Levis jeans and bootleg Magic Mike DVDs.

Lima is a city where the formal and informal are naturally spliced, a condition exemplified nowhere better than the bustling and raucous stalls of the Polvos Azules. In the 1980s, semi-ambulant vendors began congregating in Polvos Azules, selling Walkmen and VHS video tapes, and eventually growing in number to upwards of 5,000. In the early ’90s, they organized, forming the Association of Owners of the Polvos Azules Commercial Center. The association negotiated a relocation program with the city, and built a large shopping complex with 2,400 stalls.

Keep reading.

Vigo, Manuel (2013) Beneath Its Polished Surface, a Black-Market Shopping Center Thrives. In: Informal city dialogues.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Tabula non rasa (S. de Maat)
"In a slum, one can often not afford the luxury of demolition. Building a larger home usually means extending an existing house by a floor on top. Choices from the past remain visible and set implications for further development. Continued building means puzzling with the existing situation. The current situation imposes restrictions on the new design. It requires much creativity and inventiveness to get all connections, both spatially and technically, of old and new quite right. Design issues and building projects are therefore in a slum more complex than average. As a result, especially proven techniques are used. Style architecture makes little chance. Avoiding risk is crucial, because of financial constraints. In his book How Buildings Learn1, Stewart Brand shows how not only the initial design determines the shape of a building, but also how the subsequent existence leads to growth and change. In a slum, especially that growth and change are built, not style and originality.

[...] Although an architect will never design a slum, the architecture of a slum is an essential source for designers."

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Multiple floors (S. de Maat)
"Adding a floor to your house is the best way to let your home grow. An additional floor and four walls is all you need. And of course stairs to get there. Everything else is already in place, the foundation, the front door and the roof. This roof can be reused by just lifting it a few meters.

The staircase is of course the most notable new thing in the house. In this house the staircase landing of the first floor is conveniently doubling as the front porch of the house below. Note that a tarp lies over the clothesline, to protect the washing against the bright sun and down whirling dust. In the dry season dust is blown into Mumbai from India’s interior. Everything eventually gets covered with a brown layer. Not a drop of rain falls in nine months, therefore the blanket of dust is always present. The first rain of the monsoon washes everything clean and brings happy faces. Buildings, streets, plants and trees get their original colour back."

Keep on reading at The Perfect Slum.
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