Habitat Unit

July 7, 2014 | 12.00 Uhr | A 625

Florian Urban
La Perla – the planned and the unplanned city in San Juan, Puerto Rico

La Perla, Puerto Rico‘s most famous informal settlement, has existed for over a century, developing from the early 1900s outside the fortifications of San Juan’s colonial Old Town, the country’s main tourist attraction. In the 1940s and 50s La Perla was a symbol of the poverty and deprivation that scientifically informed planning under the American-led “Operation Bootstrap” attempted to remove. Since the 1970s, La Perla has been the subject of various improvement plans by the Puerto Rico Housing Department with smaller or larger participation of the community.

Thus La Perla is connected with the great hopes and fears of the twentieth century: the promise of modernisation and progress and the ensuing disappointments, the limitations of top-down decision-making and expert planning, the distress of poverty and marginalization, the opportunities of self-organization and informality, and the threat of forced relocation imposed by gentrification cycles.

Florian Urban is Head of Architectural History and Urban Studies at the Mackintosh School of Architecture in Glasgow, Scotland.

Room A 625
Institute for Architecture, TU Berlin
Strasse des 17. Juni 152
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