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New Communal Practices for Shadow Cities

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Community Engagement in Diverse Contexts

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

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Paper Authors


Scott Gerald Shall Lawrence Technological University

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Scott Gerald Shall, AIA, is an Associate Professor and the Associate Dean of the College of Architecture and Design at Lawrence Technological University (LTU) and the founding director of the International Design Clinic (IDC,, a registered non-profit that realizes socially-responsive creative action with communities in need around the world. Since founding the IDC in 2006, Shall has worked through this organization to complete over a dozen projects on four continents. Shall’s work in this arena has been disseminated widely, including presentations at Third and Fifth International Symposia On Service Learning In Higher Education, lectures at Brown University, the University of Maryland, and the New School for Design, publications by the AIA Press and the University of Indianapolis Press and exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Art in La Paz, Bolivia, the Sheldon Swope Museum of Art, the Goldstein Museum of Design, the Venice Architecture Biennale and MoMA.

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In the future, most of the world’s population will live in unplanned settlements that are built with unsafe methods on land that is illegally acquired. The vast majority of these shadow-cities will be realized without the formal input of civic or private agencies, marginalizing the impact of politicians, policy-makers, planners, architects, and engineers upon them.

It is important to note that this professional marginalization is not due to a lack of expertise, nor is it due to a lack of desire. It is because the academic and professional structure supporting these professions are fundamentally counter to those used to build these shadow-cities. The root of this misalignment rests within the patronage-driven manner of interaction favored by these field, wherein the project is defined by the clearly-delineated interactions of pre-determined actors and the design develops through the accumulated wisdom of said parties until it is reviewed and approved and the project is constructed. In this model, study drives design, which, in turn, drives construction; inhabitation is largely external to the process, occurring after it has concluded and bearing limited impact upon it. In contrast, shadow-cities operate much more fluidly, prioritizing inhabitation, which drives construction. Design, and the research grounded design practice demands, only occurs when the conventions of construction demand evolution, such as when new resources emerge, old resources become scarce or the context of inhabitation substantially changes. The fluidity of this process has helped to support the growth of extra-legal settlements at a scale that far exceeds the capacity of the governing authorities to support them. The result is the production of extra-legal settlements at an incredible scale, far beyond what can be accommodated using current means of engagement.

To meet the challenges and opportunities presented by these shadow-cities, requires an evolution of practice – one that trades the rigid hierarchies and linear approaches currently deployed for more inclusive and heterarchical terminologies and practices.

To impact this world, the architect and engineer must shift from author to instigator.

Their office must move from a place of design, to a place of design, making, use, assessment and remaking.

Their work must focus less upon the production of constructs, to which others must respond, and more on the production of smaller constructs that inspire various publics to iteratively realize a sustained address.

The presentation proposed by this abstract will delineate five steps through which the architect, engineer, and educator might begin this transition. An analysis of five projects completed by the author over the last decade within North American, South American and Asian extra-legal settlements will ground the presentation, illustrating key limits and opportunities to the audience.

Shall, S. G. (2019, June), New Communal Practices for Shadow Cities Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33134

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