Video | 2021

A Self-Help Approach: Urban Design in Accra’s Informal Settlements

Urban design, which deals with the production of public spaces, traditionally uses a top-down approach. However, urban design often does not work in urban informal settlements that lack essential public services and amenities due to demographic, environmental, and political instability. Instead, informal settlers often tend to stabilize the surrounding physical settings on their own by planning, constructing, maintaining, and even re-planning public spaces. In this way, urban design in informal settlements can be thought of through a self-help lens.

On October 27, IMFG Post-Doctoral Fellow Hsi-Chuan Wang provided a number of examples of self-help cases from an informal settlement in Accra, Ghana, to highlight how they have built up the settlers’ daily public spaces. Wang argued that this kind of urban design represents a social movement that strengthens community norms and helps lead to political and social change.


Hsi-Chuan (Andrew) Wang joined the Institute as the 2021-2022 IMFG Post-Doctoral Fellow upon receiving a Doctor of Sustainable Urbanism from Washington University in St. Louis. His area of interest includes spatial inequality through different perspectives, scales, and themes to interpret how they may affect the broader pursuit of urban sustainability. At IMFG, he will study the fiscal health of Accra, Ghana, to map out the challenges of settlement improvements. He was a professional urban planner in the Urban Development Bureau of Kaohsiung City, focusing on brownfield redevelopment and urban renewal.

The IMFG Post-Doctoral Fellowship is funded by the School of Cities.

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