Santos Rivera, Alonso (2017). 'An architectural typology for the informal economy' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Cape Town 2017.


Architecture or a building cannot develop without a context. As a starting point South Africa presents a social and economic situation of strong contrasts, between rich and poor between haves and have- not's, between the city and the periphery, between formal and informal.

Delft located to the east of the city of Cape Town is a post-apartheid neighbourhood and was established as an integrated service project for coloureds and blacks in 1989, this community serves as a starting context for an architectural response. This particular community although lacking many formal structures to sustain a localized economic framework, it has rapidly grown due to public government expenditure on housing. The predominant economic activity has been informal due to a lack of formal jobs and local services to keep up with its growth.

Informality occurs in public spaces and it is one of the main survivalist business activities sustaining millions of people in South Africa. Its activities arise within any kind of structure, from rented shipping containers to wooden stalls, the pavement or pick-up trucks, through any medium where traders can get hold of customers and sell their goods, securing from the weather or possible thefts.

The proposal mediates the connection between traders and customers on public spaces by enacting the typology of the popular market. In this context, even when mega malls and the internet makes every product almost available, the open market stands as a place for exchange, where social and economic entry barriers are low.

In architecture, market spaces consist of long span structures that shelter large areas where trading can occur. This makes these locations potentially symbolic, public and accessible to the community´s diversity of traders and customers.The aim of this proposal is to analyse and improve conditions of the informal traders and to promote a “tectonic” that can centralize, empower and organize the community around a new re-configuration of the popular market typology.

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