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Pappa, A., Tzika, Z., Roussou, E., & Panagidis, A. (2023, December). Informality as evidence: ethnographic insights from Southern European contexts. In KAEBUP 2023 Conference, Nicosia, Cyprus.

Posted on 17-07-2024

The rising interest in evidence-based practices for urban planning has opened up a pool of tools and methods that transform design processes and foster informed decision-making. While digital tools, big data and simulations provide codified evidence imperative for urban research, they significantly focus on the ‘big picture’ which often neglects the gaps between formal planning and everyday life at a local level. By reflecting upon heterogeneous socio-spatial arrangements produced through daily appropriation tactics, informality is framed as evidence for planning and design. The focus of the paper is on underrepresented groups that reclaim their participation through the configuration of everyday spaces. at four countries of the European South: Spain, Greece, Cyprus and Portugal. Following an ethnographic approach, and using photography as a grounded research method, practices of informal and direct participation, which are often overlooked, are being acknowledged, analysed and compared. Identifying instances of urban informality as alternatives to formal processes of urban development, reveals traces of negotiation, claims to space, exclusion, but also collaboration and sharing. The selected cases are juxtaposed, looking at their constitutive characteristics, motives, target groups, agencies, tactics, relation with the state and finally their contribution in the urban informality discourse. As a result, the paper seeks to recognise, firstly, informality as a legitimate source of knowledge in the urban planning debates, and secondly, the importance of incorporating ethnographic approaches in evidence-based design and planning.


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