A taxonomy of informality: exploring block types in five informal settlements in East Africa

Alessandro Venerandi, Johan Mottelson

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

33 Downloads (Pure)


Approximately 13% of the world population lives in informal settlements, characterized by limited state control, inadequate infrastructure provision, and lack of planning. While the relevance of studies of informal settlements is widely acknowledged, the urban morphology of such areas is understudied, compromising the development of effective planning and policy targeting such areas. In this paper, we present a taxonomic study at a fine level of spatial granularity of the urban form of five informal settlements, located in major cities of Sub-Saharan Africa. More specifically, a k-means clustering is applied to eight indicators of urban form computed at block level, for each of the settlements under examination. The best clustering identified ten different block types associated with distinctive features, such as blocks on public spaces (small, densely built, abundant public open space), fringe blocks
(medium-sized, sparsely built, low local connectivity), blocks in the making (large, sparsely built, high levels of through movement at settlement level). We argue that this taxonomy provides detailed information about the case studies under examination, which can potentially inform design strategies aimed at their upgrading. Finally, it presents some of the first attempts at establishing replicable quantitative data driven descriptions of the urban form of informal settlements.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalISUF Annual Conference Proceedings
Publication statusPublished - 8 Feb 2021
EventISUF 2020 the 21st Century City - Salt Lake City, United States
Duration: 1 Sept 20204 Sept 2020
Conference number: 27th


  • informal settlements
  • taxonomy
  • urban form
  • k-means clustering
  • East Africa


Dive into the research topics of 'A taxonomy of informality: exploring block types in five informal settlements in East Africa'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this