Contents and introduction


Unplanned settlements are a major source of housing provision for low-income populations in developing countries. The understanding of their development process is essential for policy makers and practitioners alike, if adequate and user-responsive environments are to be achieved.

This thesis analyses the development process of unplanned areas through the observation of the settlement patterns in an unplanned development in Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela. The study focuses on the definition of four physical elements of the settlement, which are streets, blocks, plots and dwellings, and their evolution over a period of 13 years.

The study suggests that settlement patterns are either adopted from conventional planned developments, or defined by the settlers. It also shows that these patterns are flexible because they adapt to the physical, political and economic characteristics of the context, and to the individual requirements of the users.

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Les quartiers non-planifiés contribuent d'une façon importante à l'approvisionnement d'habitation pour la population la plus pauvre dans les pays en voie de développement. La compréhension du processus de développement est essentielle pour les autorités et les praticiens afin d'obtenir des environnements appropriés et qui répondent aux priorités et besoins des usagers.

Cette thèse analyse le processus de développement des quartiers non-planifiés par l'observation des méthodes d'urbanisation d'un de ces quartiers à Ciudad Guayana au Vénézuela.

Cette étude porte sur la définition de quatre éléments physiques del'urbanisation soit les rues, les îlots, les lots et les maisons et leur évolution au cours d'une période de 13 ans.

Cette étude suggère que les méthodes d'urbanisation du quartier sont adoptées soit des quartiers planifiés de façon conventionel ou bien déterminé par les habitants. L'étude montre que ces méthodes sont flexibles parce qu'elles s'adaptent aux charactéristiques physiques, politiques et économiques du contexte et aux besoins individuels des usagers.

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Los asentamientos no planificados son la principal fuente de vivienda de la población de bajos recursos en los países en vías de desarrollo. La creación de ambientes adequados que respondan a los requerimientos de sus usuarios solo será posible a partir del entendimiento, por parte de planificadores y profesionales por igual, del proceso de desarrollo que caracteriza a este tipo de asentamientos.

Este trabajo de tesis analiza el proceso de desarrollo de los asentamientos no planificados a través de la observación de los patrones de asentamiento de un barrio en Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela. El estudio se concentra en la definición de cuatro elementos físicos del asentamiento, que son las calles, las manzanas, las parcelas y las viviendas; y en la evolución de estos elementos en un período de trece años.

El estudio sugiere que los patrones de asentamiento son adoptados de los desarrollos planificados convencionales, o definidos por los usuarios. Igualmente, el estudio muestra que esos patrones son flexibles ya que se adaptan a las características físicas, políticas y económicas del contexto, y a los requerimientos individuales de los usuarios.


I would like to thank to all the people who made the completion of this thesis possible. First of all, I would like to thank to all the people of San José de Chirica and to the members of the aso-vecinos, Petra y Gisela, who patiently and generously collaborated in the survey.

I am grateful to my Thesis Supervisor, Professor Bhatt, whose guidance, advise and patient support helped me to organize my ideas. I am also grateful to my friend Jesûs Navarrete, for his invaluable support and advice throughout this thesis. My gratitude is also due to Ms. Maureen Anderson who was always available to assist me in the administrative and academic procedures at McGill.

My appreciation is due to the Director of the Urban Planning Department of the Municipal Council in Ciudad Guayana, M% Nuria De Césaris, who enthusiastically shared with me her experiences in community work with the barrio inhabitants. Thanks are also due to the personnel of the office of Urban Studies, the Department of Statistics, the Computer Department, and Department of Social Development of the Corporación Venezolana de Guayana, CVG, in Ciudad Guayana. Also, to Mrs. Sunilde Bernal, from the Oficina de Cartografía Nacional, who kindly assisted me in obtaining the aerial photographs in Caracas.

Thanks are due to the Fundayacucho-Laspau Loan Program, which provided me the financial assistance to pursuit my academic goals.

I owe special thanks to Fernando and Eleonora Reimers, who brought me guidance and counselling during the thesis process, which was essential to achieve my academic and personal objectives. Thanks are due to my friends, Ana and Stefano Finco, who unconditionally offered me their house and their time during the field work in Ciudad Guayana. My sincerest thanks are due to Sevag, Maurice, and Patricia, who dedicated time of her summer holidays, for editing and proof-reading the text.

Finally to the Minimum Cost Housing Group who showed me a different and sensible way to look at the world around us, to Professor Andre Casault, to myfellows Sina, Tasneem, Shaibu, M% Isabel, Quing, Zhang, Fu, Allan, Norma and all my friends, whose friendship and openness made my stay at McGill an enriching and unforgettable experience.

This thesis is dedicated to my husband, Alberto, who always had time to bring me support and encouragement all along the thesis, and to my family, whose confidence and moral support help me to continue working.

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Table of contents












1.1. Unplanned Settlement Patterns 1

1.2. Unplanned Settlements in Venezuela 5

1.2.1. Historical Background 5

1.2.2. The Invasion Process 6

1.2.3. Characteristic Settlement Patterns 7

1.3. Background of Ciudad Guayana 10

1.3.1. Unplanned Settlements in Ciudad Guayana 11

1.3.2. Background of San José de Chirica 14 The Site 14


2.1. Sources of Information 17

2.1.1. Review of the Literature on Ciudad Guayana 17

2.1.2. Interviews 17

2.1.3. Initial Visits to San José de Chirica 19

2.1.4. Selection of the Sample of Plots 19

2.1.5. Survey Schedule 20

2.1.6. Data Collection 20

2.1.7. Aerial Photographs 21

2.2. Data Analysis 21


3.1. Settlement Process 23

3.1.1. San José de Chirica from 1978 to 1991 23 The Invasion Process 23 Site Occupation 24 Provision of Services 25

3.1.2. Streets 26 The Definition Process: Street Layout 26 Evolution: Main and Secondary Streets 28

3.1.3. Blocks 30 The Definition Process: Block Layout 30 Evolution: Block Subdivisions and Fusions 31

3.1.4. Plots 32 Layout and Allocation Process 32 Physical Characteristics 33

-Plot Shapes 33

-Plot Frontage 33

-Plot Depth 33

-Size 34

-Fences 34

3.2. The Housing Process 36

3.2.1. Plot Occupation 36 Plot Evolution 37 Activities in Plots 37 Occupied Area in Plots 38 Population 39 Density 39

3.2.2. First Dwelling 40 First Dwelling Design 41 Construction Process 42 First Dwelling Area 42 Location of the First Dwelling in Plots 43 First Dwelling Setbacks 44 Activities in the First Dwelling 45 First Dwelling Extensions 46

3.2.3. Second Dwelling 47 Second Dwelling Design 48 Construction Process 49 Second Dwelling Area 50 Location of the Second Dwelling in Plots 51 Location of the Second Dwelling in Relation

to the First Dwelling 52 Second Dwelling Setbacks 53 Activities in the Second Dwelling 55 Second Dwelling Extensions 56

3.2.4. Third Dwelling 57 Third Dwelling Design 58 Location of the Third Dwelling in Plots 58

3.2.5. Present Housing Characteristics 59 Dwelling Area 59 Dwelling Density 59 Dwelling Population 60

3.3. Selected Case Study: The House of Mr. Diego 62

3.4. Summary of Chapter III 64









Figure 1: Site Location


Figure 2: Site Occupation

Figure 3: Street Definition

Figure 4: Street Definition

Figure 5: Street Evolution

Figure 6: Street Modification

Figure 7: Street Modification

Figure 8: Block Definition

Figure 9: Block Evolution

Figure 10: Plot Definition

Figure 11: Plot Definition

Figure 12: Plot Allocation

Figure 13: Plot Fences

Figure 14: Modified Plots

Figure 15: Subdivided Plots

Figure 16: Activities in Plots

Figure 17a: Additional Structures

Figure 17b: Additional Structures

Figure 17c: Additional Structures

Figure 18: First Dwelling Design: Square Plan

Figure 19: First Dwelling Design: Rectangular Plan

Figure 20: Location of Dwellings in Plots

Figure 21: Location of First Dwellings in Plots

Figure 22: First Dwelling Setbacks

Figure 23: Second Dwelling

Figure 24: Second Dwelling Design

Figure 25: Second Dwelling Construction

Figure 26: Location of Second Dwellings in Plots

Figure 27: Second Dwelling Adjacent

Figure 28: Second Dwelling Close

Figure 29: Second Dwelling Enclosed

Figure 30: Second Dwelling Separated

Figure 31: Second Dwelling Setbacks

Figure 32: Third Dwelling Design

Figure 33: Location of Third Dwellings in Plots

Figure 34: The House of Mr. Diego

Figure 35: The House of Mr. Diego

Figure 36: The House of Mr. Diego



Table 1: Site Occupation

Table 2: Plot Frontages

Table 3: Plot Depths

Table 4: Plot Sizes

Table 5: Plot Density (per family)

Table 6: Plot Density (per person)

Table 7: First Dwelling Areas

Table 8: First Dwelling Lateral Setbacks

Table 9: Second Dwelling Evolution

Table 10: Second Dwelling Areas

Table 11: Second Dwelling Lateral Setbacks

Table 12: Total Dwelling Area

Table 13: Dwelling Density (per family)

Table 14: Dwelling Density (per person)

Table 15: Dwelling Occupation

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Unplanned settlements in developing countries are the product of rapid urbanization, which is bringing migrants from rural areas to industrialized centres and main cities in increasing numbers. In the housing literature, these settlements have been referred as:

spontaneous settlements, in reference to the absence of government aid and control; uncontrolled settlements, in reference to their lack of regulation; shantytowns, in reference to the poor quality of construction; popular settlements, in recognition of the fact that they are inhabited by low-income people; marginal settlements, in recognition to the role their inhabitants are assumed to play in urban society and to their location within the city; and transitional settlements, as an expression of the positive view that they can, over time, become consolidated and permanent settlements.

Unplanned settlements have shown to be effective housing delivery systems for the urban poor in developing countries. In most of these countries, it is widely accepted that unplanned settlements will result, over a period of time, in settlements with characteristics similar to planned urban areas for comparable income groups.

The ability of the urban poor to provide housing by themselves is not fully recognized in most of the official housing programs, usually managed by government agencies. Efforts on both sides, the state and the users, are not efficiently utilized. Most official low-income housing proposals are still based on pre-assumed standards rather than on the existing requirements of the intended users.

Based on the recognition of unplanned settlements as a housing alternative rather than a problem, extensive research has been directed to the observation of the development process of these housing areas. Among someof those involved in housing research, there has been a global concern that planning and supportive policies for low-income housing developments must be based on the understanding of existing priorities and particular needs and their process of evolution.

This thesis studied the mechanisms and strategies that low-income people used to define their living environment. The study showed that those strategies have defined settlement patterns in unplanned areas. These settlement patterns have been used to obtain housing within a system that has been unable to provide it through formal, official and legal mechanisms. This research focuses on settlement patterns in unplanned areas and their transformations throughout the evolution of the settlement. The questions underlying the study are:

. How do people settle themselves?

. What are the settlement patterns in unplanned residential areas?

The study looked at the characteristics of the definition of unplanned settlements in Venezuela, and their transformation over a period of 13 years. The observation focused on four physical elements of urban settlements: streets, blocks, plots and housing. The study organized these observations in two parts. The first part, the settlement process, examined the definitions of streets, blocks and plots as the result of the collective participation of the inhabitants in the settlement process. The second part, the housing process, looked at the transformation of plots and the provision of housing as the result of the users' involvement in the settlement process.

The definition process of each element was observed as the settlers' strategy to lay out and construct the settlement within the existing political, social and economic limitations in order to have access to housing. The transformation process of these elements was observed as the strategy to modify and adapt the settlement to new requirements.

The case study is San José de Chirica, an unplanned settlement in Ciudad Guayana, a planned city in Venezuela.

The thesis is organized in five chapters:

- Chapter I reviews the literature relevant to the study of settlement patterns in unplanned developments. The chapter is organized in three sections. The first section refers to the settlement patterns in unplanned areas in the context of developing countries. The second section refers to the settlement patterns in the context of Venezuela. The third section refers to settlement patterns in unplanned areas in the specific context of Ciudad Guayana.

- Chapter II describes the research method, as well as the preparation and organization of the field work.

- Chapter III presents the data collected in the field work and classifies the findings. This chapter is organized in two parts. In the first part, street, block and plot definitions are studied as settlement patterns that depend on collective participation. In the second part, plot transformation and housing patterns are studied as patterns that depend on individual involvement and the decision-making of users.

- Chapter IV analyzes and evaluates the findings in the broader context of unplanned settlements in Venezuela. The relationships between patterns are studied from the point of view of their practical function in the development of the unplanned settlement.

- Chapter V presents the conclusions derived from the interpretation of the findings of the previous chapter.

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