Transgressive urbanism: borderlands and urban informality of American cities along the Pan-American highway

Cristian Suau

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This study explores the ways in which political boundaries can be trespassed in order to develop subaltern forms of urbanism and edge conditions, mainly to the comparative study of border cities in the Americas, predominantly ruled by informal economies, and which are situated alongside the largest land-transport infrastructure on Earth called 'Pan-American Highway'. This land transport corridor operates as a grand linear urbanism and constitutes the economical catalyst of emerging urban economies in scenarios of political regional integration (‘soft boundaries’) or fortification (demarcations). As result of border pressure, the process of ‘instantness’ has upgraded various informal urban economies to adequate standards of production, consumption and exchange. In terms of regional development, one of the direct impacts of the Pan-American Highway – from Alaska to Patagonia – has been the expansion of formal and informal economic and trade corridors along this main infrastructure network, which is shaping the urban structure of border cities or towns. On one hand, this study reflects on the border conditions of American border cities ruled by formal and informal economies. On another hand, it compares and critically reflects on the socio-spatial principles of infrastructural urbanism and the phenomenon of metapolisation (Ascher, 2004) of urban economies in selected border cities. The novelty of this study lies in the observation and mapping of new spatial schemes in border landscapes alongside the largest infrastructure on Earth.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-76
Number of pages9
JournalCreativity Game: Theory and Practice of Spatial Planning
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2013


  • political geography
  • infrastructural urbanism
  • borderlands
  • hybrid landscapes
  • border cities and informality


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