Libertarian Architecture (and Zoning)

Architect Teddy Cruz is inspired by Tijuana shantytowns. Mr. Cruz plans on building a series of tightly packed neighborhoods that take advantage of lessons learned in shanty environments. Assuming he can pull off the zoning of such an area, it will be quite an experiment.

I'm skeptical that the positive lessons of squatter communities are understood well enough to utilize them. Shantytowns definitely do have lessons to teach. I remember reading Shadow Cities by Robert Neuwirth. It's a good introduction to the wild urban environments that house a billion human beings. The variety of solutions developed ad hoc to solve issues like the transportation of goods, or the removal of waste, or electricity distribution are inspiring. However, there's the problem, the solutions are ad hoc.

Both the problems and the innovations of shantytowns derive from the libertarian nature of the population's existence. Features like tightly packed and stacked buildings, mixed use areas and the like are consequences of free use. The vitality of squatter cities stems from the ability to abandon any aspect that loses it's function and re-envision its purpose. A home can become a business can become a lot can become a road can become a home. This is in opposition to standard cities, where zoning and other factors of control create vestigial areas.

The Cruz faux shantytown will succeed as a visionary experiment only if the vision is fuzzy. Cruz should focus on loosening the demands made by the municipality on what the neighborhood should be. I'm afraid he may focus more on a romantic vision of what the neighborhood should look like.