The Social Production of Informal Urban Space: A Theoretical Discussion of Informal Settlements

David Paul L. Yu1,*

Author Affliations

1College of Architecture, University of Santo Tomas


Informal settlements are communities built outside the legal framework of the state. Its urban environment is a product of socio-spatial processes that do not conform to conventional urban planning paradigm. These spatial practices reveal a community-driven informal process that necessitates constant negotiation and adaptation. This paper aims to develop a theoretical framework in studying informal settlement by exploring different theories and concepts that relate to the production of its informal urban spaces. Three theories and concepts are presented in this paper; namely, everyday resistance, organizational complexity, and Lefebvre’s social production of space. Everyday resistance helps in understanding why informal settlements persist despite the precarious nature of these communities. Organization complexity explains how the social organization and social practices observed in informal settlements are translated into the urban environment. Lefebvre’s spatial triad unpacks the different elements involved in the production of space. The focus of these theories is to understand how the socio-spatial processes and practices observed in informal settlements are manifested into the urban environment. The theories also take into the account the different qualities that define informal settlement.