Habitat and Urban Development

Draw attention to present situations and to their possible consequences

Authors: A. Rabinovich, Y. Pedrazzini, D. Toscani

Look at this presentation and think about the possible consequences of the data it shows:

Learning Objectives

After completing this lesson, you shall be able to:

  • Evaluate the true importance of the urban environment in the modern world and judge how complex it is;
  • Define the basic criteria for sustainable urban development (social, economic and environmental);
  • Describe the city's social and territorial complexity;
  • Explain why urban research has to combine both quantitative and qualitative approaches;
  • Analyse the limits of a technical approach to urban development as well as the ideological nature of traditional urban planning;
  • Improve urban projects by taking account of "non-professional" points of view, including those of the local population;
  • Develop new criteria for innovative decision-making processes for urban development policy.


To develop your own knowledge about the urban context in developing countries, it is necessary to combine statistical data with data from social anthropology. As a student, you should know that you have to combine quantitative and qualitative methods and gradually learn the theoretical and methodological principles of inter-disciplinary research: urban studies is a discipline in which various sciences, theories and methods meet. The large cities of the South are suitable places to carry out this type of study because of their dynamism and complexity.

As an introduction to this methodology, LaSUR suggests that you:

  • Read 3 essential articles about termurban development and social inequality (selected by the course teachers).
  • Watch an animation about the social and territorial problems linked to urban development (in Latin America) and the first proposals that have been put forward. This animation summarises the basic principles that we would like to present to students who wish to improve their knowledge of the realities and urban questions in countries in the South.

Although we are still talking about research, you have to always keep in mind that the specific context in which you will have to work on ever more complex and even conflictual aspects of urban dynamics – the South, the Third World, developing countries, etc. – will oblige you to take an ethical or political standpoint on any scientific project. This first stage of questioning therefore provides you with an opportunity to plunge directly into the fundamental discussion of whether urban research in cities in the South can or should leave questions of cooperation and development aside. On the basis of this introduction to projects conducted as part of Swiss aid programmes by researchers from LaSUR, we will immediately investigate the links between research and action, taking into account the termaction research method.

  • Note down, in a sort of individual brainstorming session, the 5 main problems you think directly affect the urban environment. We will use the list of subjects you have identified as a basis for class discussion.

Working through this lesson you will come across the following activities, tests and downloads:




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