Co-naturing informality in Chile

From Firenze University Press Journal: Ri-Vista

University of Florence
3 min readMay 17, 2023

Carlotta Olivari, Architectural Association, School of Architecture, London

Margherita Pasquali, DICAM, University of Trento

[Extreme] nature of informal Chile

Since we are living in the Anthropocene, there is no doubt that Climate change is human driven, but it is equally necessary to clarify that “There is a political difference between saying” Humans did it! “ — and saying, “Some humans did it!” (Moore, 2021, p. 50). Thus, we face a global asymmetry: climate change triggered by consumption patterns accelerates the processes of exploitation. Here, the environmental crisis becomes extremely tangible, increasing the weight of inequalities (Olivari, Li and Huang, 2021). In this context of climate change, it is necessary to start re-questioning and rethinking the relations between humans and non-humans. Inspired by Donna Haraway’s concept of Making Kind (Clarke and Haraway, 2022), the research on the relationships between different objects of nature and non-nature that are subject to today’s climate change is born. Looking today at the transformations of the planet that are afflicting more parts of the world’s population, Chile represents an exemplary case study. Chile is characterised by natural phenomena of endogenous nature, and it has such a conformation that the topography itself becomes an urban fact: social, spatial, cultural, and architectural relations are deeply and intrinsically linked to the territory. Most of Chile’s boundaries are marked by natural barriers: for example, mountains, that isolate the country as an island from the rest of South America.

To the north, the Atacama Desert separates Chile from Perú while also being surrounded by the Pacific Ocean to the South and West. To the East, the Andes chain constitutes a natural barrier between Chile and the rest of South America. Besides being naturally isolated, Chile is character-ised by an endogenous nature: earthquakes, tsuna-mis, and fires are natural hazards, made even more extreme by the increasing overexploitation of its resources. In these areas, where the risk and nature become extreme, there is a co-habitation between man and nature. Within this geomorphological con-dition, it is impossible to exclude the continuous evolution, separating humans from other living species. This co-habitation is the rise of campamentos, Chilean informal settlements: as in the ravines of the region of Gran Valparaíso, subject to landslides, earthquakes and fires, there is the greatest concentration of campamentos of all of Chile; and as in the desert regions of Atacama and Antofagasta, where the presence of water is almost nothing; here, only the informal element can rise (TECHO Chile, 2020).The natural conformation of the Chilean territory still partially manages to preserve the Chilean land from urban disfigurement. As the native indigenous populations in this area lived precariously and in continuous movement depending on the fickleness of nature; so, the informal element carries an aware-ness of its temporariness. Consequently, daily, the informal element must deal with its instability.This contribution investigates the natural processes and informality in Chile. Specifically, it analyses the symbiotic relationship between the informal devel-opment and the morphological conformation of the natural Chilean context, with the consequent inter-section of the inhabited space and the natural one. The spatial interaction between the natural context and the informal advancement is extreme in Chile-an territory (Olivari and Pasquali, 2019).


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