It can be expected that urban settlements will be carefully planned. After all, things like road structures, power grids and – let's face it – plumbing are all things that require professionals with expertise and knowledge of the big picture.
It turned out that there are many communities that have just emerged spontaneously and whose construction is not really supervised. The results are mixed, as you can probably imagine, but at least the stories are always interesting. Here are some of our favorite cities we created spontaneously.
10th Slab City
The astonishingly named Slab City in Niland, California is a spontaneous “alternative living community” in Camp Dunlap, an old naval base from World War II. The base itself was leveled a long time ago, but there are still some concrete slabs (which give the site its name). In addition to the “slabs”, the military is also present today: Slab City is located near an active bombing zone.
Slab City is an off-grid community that uses solar panels for the power supply and has its own waste disposal systems. There are very few rules, laws, or regulatory interventions that occasionally lead to shootings or arson. However, the community is largely peaceful and the residents have teamed up to create sculptures, stages with live music, a library, and a golf course. There is even a shared shower that is powered by a nearby hot spring.
The community has several full-time residents who are referred to as "slabbers". However, it is largely a seasonal community of mostly older people, who travel by the thousands to spend the winter months in the comparatively warm climate of the desert. It is also extremely difficult to overlook if you choose to see the place yourself: Slab City visitors are greeted by a 50-foot hill called Salvation Mountain a massive, colorful folk art installation that a Leonard Knight, who lives in Slab City, has worked on the development for decades.
. 9 Copenhagen's Freetown Christiania
Remarkably, the Danish government has not done the obvious and has violently driven out everyone involved. Instead, they took part and declared it a "social experiment". Christiania slowly grew into a settlement of around 1,000 people, which formed an open anarchist community in which both the sale and use of drugs are legal. In some ways, however, Christiania's success is exactly what ultimately made him a failure. Although Freestadt has successfully accomplished its mission of creating a "hippie utopia", it ultimately fell victim to the same problem that so many other cool places suffer from: Gentrification . Over the years Christiania has "normalized" under Danish law and in 2011 the occupiers had to resist government attempts to bring Freetown to a standstill by buying the country's land from the state. This, combined with great interest in the region, has changed the region's economy dramatically and rents have risen so much that the original citizens can hardly afford to live there: a long-term resident had to move away when his rent increased rapidly $ 300 to $ 1,300.
. 8 Deadwood
Yes, the Deadwood . The infamous gold rush mining town HBO became famous for the discovery of huge gold deposits in the Black Hills. In 1876, the miners moved through the southern Black Hills and northwards, where they discovered a river rich in gold – and surrounded by a gorge full of dead trees.
A small camp of miners grew almost immediately into a large, lawless city that attracted all types of fortune-seekers and dodgy characters, as shown on the HBO show with significant historical accuracy . While Deadwood experienced several major fires and severe economic problems and eventually became a more or less respectable and law-abiding gambling city, its start as a spontaneous, shabby haven for some of the most notorious names in the Old West remains its most enduring legacy.
. 7 Guryong
Guryong Village is a big shantytown in the most unlikely place of all: In Gangnam, the extremely wealthy district in South Korea's Seoul, which PSY made fun of in its hit Gangnam Style. Guryong was founded spontaneously in 1988 when officials forced many people to leave their homes when the city hosted the Olympic Games. As a last resort, they settled on private property in Gangnam and have stayed there ever since.
Residents of the village of Guryong have lived in this limbo for decades, and although the government plans to move them (again) and demolish the dilapidated village, the rehabilitation plan has been postponed several times because politicians cannot agree how they will Compensate villagers.
. 6 Miami's Umoja Village
Umoja Village in Miami, Florida was a spontaneous emergency settlement that was built by a group of housing activists in the Liberty City district to raise awareness of the city's major housing problems. The cardboard and wood construction started as "part of the protest, part of the street theater", but was soon full of homeless people who built gardens and a communal kitchen.
The community attracted a lot of media attention and became the symbolic core of the city's crisis over affordable housing. When Miami hosted the Super Bowl XLI, international journalists visited Umoja Village, probably to the detriment of city officials. Unfortunately, the village survived only half a year: In 2007, an unsupervised candle burned the entire Umoja village to the ground. The activists and residents wanted to rebuild their community, but the city saw Umoja as a massive PR disaster, fenced the area, and threw enough bureaucracy against the activists to cause the reconstruction efforts to fail.
. 5 Trench Town
Jamaica Trench Town was born in 1937, but people had lived there much longer. Before it got its new name, it was called Trench Pen a farm and cattle area where a large number of poor people started to settle. Eventually, the government decided to build permanent homes for the squatters, and the method they chose was to divide the area into several separate lots, known as tenements. Each yard could accommodate approximately 16 tenants, who paid the government a monthly rent of 12 shillings.
Although Trench Town has nominally changed from an illegal settlement to an officially sanctioned city community, it was (and remains) a slum – a blocky, run-down area with poor prospects and a high crime rate. However, it is also a community that has greatly influenced the history of Jamaica and the world in general by spawning a little thing called reggae. Bob Marley grew up there. Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Alton Ellis and a whole host of other reggae legends also come from Trench Town. Unfortunately, the neighborhood's fame in music history has done little to improve its conditions, and aside from the occasional Bob Marley mural and the ubiquitous scent of a particular herb, pretty much the only thing that matters about the size of the reggae in the area reveal the Trench Town Museum and Trench Town Culture Yard, a colorful facility that was created as an "informal meeting place for musicians".
. 4 Right 2 Dream Too
Right 2 Dream Too also known as R2DToo could not technically qualify as a city as it is only around 80-90 people strong, but has announced the cause of thousands of homeless people in the area, so it's only fair to give it a passport. Right 2 Dream Too was built as a large homeless camp on an empty private lot in Portland, Oregon. It came about when a man named Ibrahim Mubarak decided to do something about the city's homeless and founded a nonprofit to do just that. He signed a contract with a landowner who "had problems developing and selling the property" and voila! A homeless camp directly opposite the city's luxury boutiques.
As you can probably imagine, owners and builders started complaining pretty quickly and the city was looking for ways to move the camp to a more suitable location. The camp was eventually relocated to a riverside location near the Moda Center and, along with other active homeless nonprofits such as Dignity Village and Hazelnut Grove, they seem to have paid sufficient attention to the homeless Issue that the city of Portland announced a new outreach program in 2019 to hopefully help the homeless in the region.
. 3 Heliopolis
Brazil is known for its huge shantytowns, "favelas", and only a few favelas are more famous than Sao Paulo's massive Heliopolis . The massive improvised neighborhood has an estimated 210,000 residents, is just ten kilometers from the business district, and is expanding thanks to the “puxadinhos” that spontaneously add to existing buildings that Heliopolis residents build when a relative comes home, a new one child is born or another event requires additional space. Technically speaking, there is an architect who “oversees home improvement projects in the region”, but the results can be very eccentric.
Over time, Heliopolis' buildings have become more stable and the infrastructure has improved – long-time resident Sandra Regina dos Santos states that they now have access to electricity and water, which was previously not a matter of course. Apart from the constantly emerging new buildings and outbuildings, the original buildings from the 1970s were rebuilt and expanded. What used to be a quickly shackled wooden hut may have become a robust, three-story brick building over the decades . Some of the buildings can be up to eight stories high.
. 2 Kairos Müllstadt
Kairos Müllstadt is technically a walled neighborhood called Mansheyat Naser, which is home to 262,000 of the poorest residents of the city and across the country. A large number of its inhabitants are Coptic Christians, known under the derogatory name Zabaleen, which means "garbage men". In the 1940s the Zabaleen were farmers, but poverty and hunger led them to migrate from Upper to Egypt . In the 1970s, they had settled in an abandoned quarry and started to develop a humble economy by sorting out the huge city's garbage.
Kairo's waste disposal system is lacking, to put it mildly, so the Zabaleen collect garbage from the streets for free – and take everything to Garbage City to manually sort and see what they can use. Metals, plastics, cardboards and fabrics are separated from each other and sold to the “next layer” of the economy, which processes the materials. Even the rotting feed in the garbage is used well as pig feed.
For many residents of Garbage City, this way of life is quite modest: their living conditions are poor, and every flat surface (including the roofs of the buildings) is usually covered with garbage. Some have nevertheless managed to gain a significant amount of wealth from the recycling business, and it's not uncommon to see young men in fancy suits. The city of garbage also harbors amazing beauties: in the garbage city there is a majestic and huge cave church called Saint Simon Church, which the locals carved out of rock. The artistically built and decorated cave can accommodate over 15,000 people.
. 1 Kowloon Walled City
Kowloon Walled City began life as a thick-walled military base in Hong Kong, but a number of branches changed after World War II, leaving the site open to large numbers of immigrants. Soon both the British government and the Chinese authorities found that they had absolutely no way of controlling the spontaneously created, dense, and massively overpopulated network of existing buildings and new 10-story makeshift buildings built by the residents of the city wall were.
Years grew to a point where population density was approximately 3.3 million people per mile – meaning that the 2.7 hectare area of Walled City was estimated  housed around 35,000 people  which makes it easily the most densely populated area on earth. The makeshift skyscrapers were all interconnected, and the labyrinthine structure made it possible for you to navigate roofs, corridors, and bridges without ever stepping on the ground.
The conditions within the Walled City were miserable: The sunlight had no place inside the complex, which was instead mostly illuminated with neon signs. Wastewater was dripping on the surfaces. The law did not exist and the triads ruled. In spite of all this, many residents loved the place and opposed the repeated attempts by the authorities to empty (or at least slightly clean up) the place. Ultimately, however, the "dilapidated city" was demolished, and in 1993 even the most stubborn elements accepted compensation and redesign. What used to be the imposing, lawless Kowloon Walled City is now a public park.
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