Informal Urbanism Research Hub


In 2014, some 54% of the world’s population was estimated as residing in urban areas, and this is predicted to rise to around 66% by 2015. For many cities in the developing world, much of this urban growth is occurring in the form of settlements, often described by terms such as informal settlements, squatter areas and in some contexts slums (which may include the latter). The 2014 United Nations MDG report, for example, indicates that approximately 33% of urban residents in developing countries continue to reside in slums and this number will continue to increase. Squatter and informal settlements effectively represent forms of urban development that evolve outside the bounds of what is normally referred to as normative formal planning systems, which typically characterise the formation and development of modern and westernised developed countries.

Not surprisingly, interpretations of the informal urbanism concept have emerged as a conduit to understand the emergence, nature and forms of urban informality, that is, processes, activities and outcomes falling outside the bounds of modern formal ‘top down’ planning processes and regulatory frameworks. These are forms of urban activities and development, such as squatter and informal settlements, which do not conform with predetermined rules and regulations comprising mainstream formal normative planning systems. Thus, from many perspectives, notions of formal and informal remain inextricably connected. Given the scale of global urban change underway, better understanding urban informality and informal urbanism is paramount to understanding the changing nature of urbanisation processes, achieving better urban planning and management outcomes, as well as the future environmental sustainability of cities generally.

In this setting, the Informal Urbanism Research Hub comprises a group of academics and higher degree students who are active within the informal urbanism research and practice space within the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning. The Informal Urbanism Research Hub falls under the broader Urbanism research group, which is one of five research themes within the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning. The aims of the Informal Urbanism Research Hub are to: (i) connect academics and graduate students within the Faculty and broader University community interested in urban informality and informal urbanism, (ii) share current research and practice ideas, (iii) foster individual and joint publications, (iv) promote interdisciplinary dialogue with guest speakers on topical issues around informal urbanism, and (v) foster international cross-cultural university collaboration, awareness, and social responsibility on informal urbanism.

Focusing on Asia and the Pacific Rim region, the Informal Urbanism Research Hub has a number of ongoing priority research focus areas, namely;

- the utility and nature of the informal urbanism concept;
- the nature and role of urban governance;
- planning systems in informal settlements;
- ‘bottom up’ and ‘top down’ agricultural practices in the city;
- appropriate tools and methods of analysis to understand informal urbanism and urban informality, such as typologies,
- role of computational design in better deconstructing informal urbanism; influences on the form of vernacular settlements, and
- spatial justice, spatial resilience, rights to the city and informal urbanism.

A number of members of the Informal Urbanism Research Hub currently run an annual informal urbanism studio for postgraduate urban and regional planning students in the kampungs (villages) of Bandung, Indonesia, in collaboration with Institute of Technology Bandung (ITB).

In this context, the Informal Urbanism Research Hub is committed to deepening both academic and graduate student learning through building intercultural, social responsibly and regional awareness activities.

Hub Researchers

Associate Professor Paul Jones
Convener of the Informal Urbanism Research Hub

Academic Profile

Lecturer Rizal Muslimin

Academic Profile

PhD student Ninik Suhartini

Urban Governance in Jayapura, Papua, Indonesia

PhD student Scott Pelletier

Planning Systems in Informal Settlements, Port Moresby

PhD student Yuan Wei

Bottom Up - Top Down Practices in Urban Agriculture, China


Associate Professor Paul Jones and Lecturer Rizal Muslimin welcome strong MPhil and PhD applications based around the above research themes. Inquiries: