Temporary appropriation and urban informality: exploring the subtle distinction

Jose Antonio Lara-Hernandez, Claire Marie Coulter, Alessandro Melis

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This paper seeks to explore the definitions and uses of both urban informality, and temporary appropriation in a city/urban setting. Temporary appropriation is usually overlooked and misinterpreted as a form of informal practice. By separating temporary appropriation from informality, we have been able to create a simpler model for understanding urban informality, whilst at the same time crystallising temporary appropriation as a concept in its own right. We challenge the existing definitions of informality as applied in studies concerning informal practices in the Global North and argue that some understandings of informal behaviour in urban settings could be better understood when viewed as forms of temporary appropriation. We provide a categorisation of temporary appropriation by providing examples from different cities and cultures and show that there is a definite need for a deeper understanding of temporary appropriation and its relationship with the urban informality of any socio-cultural landscape.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102626
Number of pages10
Early online date3 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020


  • informality
  • urban informality
  • temporary
  • appropriation
  • informal practices
  • public space


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