Special Issue "Informalizing Public Space: Appropriation, Urban Mapping and Design Thinking"

A special issue of Urban Science (ISSN 2413-8851).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 July 2022.

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Hesam Kamalipour
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
School of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University, Cardiff CF10 3WA, UK
Interests: informal urbanism; forms of urban informality and adaptation; typology; urban morphology and morphogenesis; tactical and temporary urbanism; public space and streetlife; place identity and urban mapping
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue engages with how forms of informality work in public space. It focuses on the capacity of urban design to enable or constrain the ways in which different forms of informality emerge and are sustained in public space. The aim is to explore the possibility of harnessing the productive capacities of informality while managing the appropriation of public space to maintain its functionality and openness. This Special Issue lies at the intersection of studies on urban informality and public space. It also cuts across the distinctions between cities of the global South and those of the global North to provide a better understanding of the relations between formal and informal across different case studies and scales.

The key questions are: What is the role of informality in public space? What forms of informality take place in public space? How do different forms of informality work in public space? What is the role of the built environment? How can urban design most effectively address informality in the process of shaping and managing public spaces? What are the synergies and contradictions between formal and informal in public space? What are the in-between conditions? How do forms of informality compete for space and visibility? What methods can be used to unravel the ways in which forms of informality work in public space? What are the adaptations and codes of informality in public space? What are the relations between urban informality and street-life intensity? What are the rhythms of informality in public space? What are the relations between spatial, social, and temporal aspects of informality in public space? In what ways can urban mapping be used to unravel the dynamics of informality in public space? How can urban design interventions enable or constrain the emergence and consolidation of informality in public space? In what ways can urban informality be sustained in public space?

Dr. Hesam Kamalipour
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Urban Science is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • public space
  • informality
  • street life
  • typology
  • urban mapping
  • urban intensity
  • urban morphology
  • urban design
  • informal urbanism
  • appropriation

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission, see below for planned papers.

Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Title: Appropriating Public Space: Street Trading and the Emergence of Urban Intensity
Abstract: The urban ecology of the station areas in the rapidly growing cities of the global South comprises both formal and informal economies where different forms of self-organised activities can loosen up the spatial striation of the public space and maximise its physical and social affordances. Of critical importance here is the ways in which informal street trading has become integral to the performance of public space where formal and informal activities variously mesh and compete for space and visibility. While often seen by the authorities as marginalised and damaging to the larger-scale off-street market, street trading cannot be simply wished away as it gears to the emergence of vibrant urbanity and economic productivity. The challenge then is to explore the complex relations between formal and informal within a framework of assemblage thinking to understand the ways in which informal street trading negotiates space and competes for visibility in public space. This paper draws on behavioural observations, fieldwork notes, visual recording and urban mapping as the key methods along with adopting a spatial typology previously introduced by Kamalipour and Peimani (2019) to unravel how different types of informal street traders appropriate and negotiate space in relation to their mobility, proximity to public/private urban interfaces, and intensity of streetlife within two case studies from the city of Tehran. The aim is to provide a better understanding of the dynamics of street trading in public space. This study contributes to the ways in which the built environment professions can most effectively enable opportunities for a wide range of unplanned activities particularly in those areas which are under the practices of formalisation.
Keywords: street trading; appropriation; typology; mapping; informal urbanism; public space; streetlife; public/private interface; urban intensity; emergence; urban design
Bromley, R. (2000). Street vending and public policy: A global review. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 20(1/2), 1-28.
DeLanda, M. (2016). Assemblage theory. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
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Kamalipour, H. & Peimani, N. (2019). Negotiating Space and Visibility: Forms of Informality in Public Space. Sustainability, 11, 4807.
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 Title: Between Lockdown and Regeneration: Temporary Appropriation, Informality and Displacement. The Case of Merida, Yucatan
Abstract: This paper explores the relationship between the emergence of temporary appropriation (TA) as an informal use of public spaces; and the conjunction of lockdown and local mobility strategies to halt the worldwide pandemic. Lara-Hernandez and Melis (2018) conceptualise the term TA as people’s activities occurring in the public spaces different than the initial design purpose of the space. The manuscript enquires on the role that long-term regeneration policies to market the Heritage City Centre have had on the displacement of TA practices; and the effect that emergency measures have had on the accentuation of these patterns. Intended as multi-disciplinary research, utilising an assemblage and resilient thinking approach, it selects Merida City Centre (Mexico) as a case study. Such context experienced a severe lockdown in parallel with a full over whole re-structuration of the urban mobility system, including a significant renovation of the streetscape design. A participant overt observation and activity mapping were carried out, parallel with land-use and socio-economic data analysis. The paper concludes that both assemblage and resilient theory could be used as a theoretical framework investigating such urban phenomena. Additionally, the manuscript illustrates a clear emergent organic self-organisation of the socio-ecological landscape, responding to the external pressures of lockdown and regeneration.
Keywords: temporary appropriation; resilience thinking; assemblage theory; urban informality
Cruz, N. F., Oh, D. Y., & Choumar, N. B. (2020). The metropolitan scale. Cities, 100(February), 102644. https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.1016/j.cities.2020.102644
DeLanda, M. (2016). Assemblage Theory. Edinburgh University Press.
DeLanda, M. (2006). A new phylosophy of society. Continuum.
Garcia, E. J., & Vale, B. (2017). Unravelling sustainability and resilience in the built environment. In Unravelling Sustainability and Resilience in the Built Environment. Routledge. Taylor & Francis Group. https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.4324/9781315629087
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Lara-Hernandez, J. A., & Melis, A. (2018). Understanding the temporary appropriation in relationship to social sustainability. Sustainable Cities and Society, 39C, 1–14. https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.1016/j.scs.2018.03.004
Lara-Hernandez, J. A., Melis, A., & Lehmann, S. (2019). Temporary appropriation of public space as an emergence assemblage for the future urban landscape: The case of Mexico City. Future Cities and Environment, 5(1), 1–22. https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.5334/fce.53
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Yamagata, Y., & Maruyama, H. (2016). Urban Resilience: A Transformative Approach. In Y. Yamagata & H. Maruyama (Eds.), Advanced Sciences and Technologies for Security Applications. Springer Nature Switzerland AG. https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.1007/978-3-319-39812-9

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