The ordinary city and the extraordinary city : the challenges of planning for the everyday

Azim Premji University,


Recent work on informal urbanism argues that informality’ is a strong force in determining and shaping how cities in the global south grow, and hence needs to be a part of emergent urban theory. This paper uses this argument as a starting point, drawing upon the work of scholars who suggest that urban informality may have an organizing logic, a system of norms that emerge from the economic conditions and the social needs of people. Specifically, this paper examines informality in the urban space as an outcome of spatial and economic changes in a market precinct in Bangalore. It finds that activities in the street are temporal in nature. In this paper, the ordinary city encapsulates how people use urban spaces on an everyday basis and the extraordinary city reflects how urban spaces are transformed during a periodic, religious and cultural festival. The paper makes two key contributions, one, to show through an in-depth spatial ethnographic study how the ordinary – extraordinary’ might help us understand informal urbanism and two, to propose that it may be useful to have intermediate levels of planning that incorporate the conditions of the ordinary’ city as well as the extraordinary’ city, thereby contributing to both theory and practice.