It's rare to find architects who are willing to listen to and learn from squatter communities. Alfredo Brillembourg and Hubert Klumpner, two of the driving forces behind the Caracas Think Tank in Caracas, Venezuela, have spent the past six months working with squatters in the Venezuelan capital. Now they have joined with German journalist Kristin Feireiss to bring out informal city: caracas case (Prestel Art Books.)
For planners this is an important text. As Brillembourg and Klumpner write: "If one looks at the barrios at a distance--in person or in an aerial photograph--one sees sprawling, rhizome-like shapes; one searches in vain for an ordering principle." But, they assert, we can learn from the informal city. "Informal does not mean 'lacking form'. It implies, for us, something that arises from within itself and its makers, whose form has not yet been recognized, or is unfinished, but which is subject to rules and procedures potentially as specific and necessary as those that have governed official, formal city-making."
It's expensive ($60) and largely academic in tone, but informal city is enlivened with lots of photos and it makes the right argument: that squatters have made a valuable contribution to urbanism in the 21st century.