Guatemala City "favela" type housing near downtown. Image via Shutterstock

Guatemala City “favela” type housing near downtown. Image via Shutterstock

Slum. Shanty Town. Favela. Ghetto. Barrio Marginal. Bidonville. The list goes on. 

We have the foresight to understand and predict that demand for shelter in urban environments will continue to expand, perhaps indefinitely, but certainly until the highly-cited prediction that by 2050, more than two-thirds of the global population will live in cities. With this reality, is it time to reassess the way in which we talk about different forms of urbanization?


Laundry service in Dhobi Ghat. Yavuz Sariyildiz / Shutterstock.com. Image via Shutterstock

Laundry service in Dhobi Ghat. Yavuz Sariyildiz / Shutterstock.com. Image via Shutterstock



The negative connotations of the word “slum” are apparent. But beyond the assumed, unhelpful undertone, the term is inadequate. 

By using catch-all terms for the real issues that create and propagate precarious human settlement, we miss the opportunity to pinpoint problems specific to each city,  population and even the particularities of legislation that cause or prevent changes. 

ArchDaily has used the word in the way that we seek to question here. But is it time to reconsider how we speak about human settlements? So many in the profession have turned their attention to “slums” with the right intentions, completing insightful research and proposing novel ideas. But are such constructive ideas able to really shine through when the conversation begins with a marginalizing and inaccurate term?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Your opinion may be included in a follow-up article. 

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