José Rafael Núñez Collado

(Re)constructing the Informal City. Narratives of Progress in Santo Domingo Unplanned Settlements.

Informal settlements or slums are territories that have been traditionally oppressed, neglected, and hidden from historical urban documents, maps, and policies; thus made invisible and denied their right to the city. Furthermore, while slum upgrading is widely considered the best framework to intervene informal settlements today, there are debates regarding the causal effects of these interventions.

This thesis engages with the above mentioned contemporary discourses on urban informality (historically and contemporary) in the oldest city in the Americas: Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic.On the one hand, it is interested in reconstructing the history of the “informal city” in Santo Domingo as a way of exposing the struggles and contributions to place making of these communities. On the other hand, the research focuses on evaluating the effects of recent and large-scale built-environment slum upgrading interventions in the city.

it exposes the causal effects of recent large-scale slum upgrading interventions in the city by comparing upgraded and non-upgraded communities that serve as control groups. These streams will inform a holistic understanding of urban informality (historically and contemporary) in the city where the first marginalized neighborhood in Latin America appeared.

This thesis is relevant in a background where most of the urban growth that the planet will experience in the future will occur in the developing world, resulting in an increased number of people living in slums. Furthermore, as architecture and urbanism are used to propel the reforms and transformations of the informal city, evaluating the effects of recent large-scale slum upgrading is an opportunity to construct a situated account on interventions that work and how they work, for whom they work, and expose those that need to be rethought or reframed.


Prof. Regan Potangaroa and Dr Emina Petrovic

Authors’ publications

Núñez Collado, J.R. Santo Domingo: City profile of the Caribbean’s metropolis. Cities 2019, 94(November), 235–246.

Núñez Collado, J.R.; Wang, H.-H.; Tsai, T.-Y. Urban Informality in the Paris Climate Agreement: Content Analysis of the Nationally Determined Contributions of Highly Urbanized Developing Countries. Sustainability 201911, 5228.