Department of Architecture blog 'Slums’ have a role in achieving urban ‘prosperity’


Aisha Abubakar

Aisha Abubakar

PhD student, Department of Architecture


This blog focuses on recent research on slums by doctoral student Aisha Abubakar, at the Department of Architecture, University of Strathclyde, with the guidance of her supervisor Dr Ombretta Romice.

This research combines Aisha’s deep interest in and first-hand experience with, both local authorities and community workers in Abuja, Nigeria, and Dr Romice’s work in the field of environment-behaviour studies and participation in urban renewal and resilience. It suggests the potential that slums hold, in the pursuit of broader urban prosperity.

'Slums'and 'Prosperity' are complex, variable terms used to describe broad and different scenarios, contexts, conditions and goals. ‘Slum’ is a term with a negative legacy, towards which intervention is still more often than not aimed towards eradication in the process of dealing with the problems and issues it comes with. 'Prosperity' is a term more often than not associated with better-off societies and their pursuit of improved conditions, although recently it is becoming disassociated from purely economic connotations to reflect more social and personal aspirations.

Needless to say, the association of the two terms - slum and prosperity - is not a conventional one.

Still, the work here at Strathclyde is arguing for this link based on two simple points: 1) the foreseeable growth of slums is such that they can no longer be seen as problems only, and instead they need to be treated as active players in finding solutions to the ultra-fast urbanisation, especially in developing countries. Moreover, slums and cities share a relatively complex growth relationship that is tied to cities’ structural vitality as much as its demographic. 2) Prosperity should be a goal for all in society; pursuing prosperity is the consistent strive to fulfil needs, meet objectives and progress our conditions. Whoever we are, wherever we are, needs manifest themselves in a context made up of places, people and systems of management; the interrelation of these 3 makes our pursuit for prosperity more or less difficult. Understanding how these 3 systems work in slums, can help us shape the pursuit of prosperity for their inhabitants.

This relatively simple proposition is made of three challenging tasks. First, is that of defining slums in a comprehensive, inclusive, multidimensional, comparable and dynamic way. To fulfil this, the research has developed the Slum Property Map (SPM) from a detailed analysis of historic and current literature encompassing records on slums to date.