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Global Land Enclosures, Urban-Technology, and Experimental Property in Medellin’s Comunas

Dr Nicholas Simcik Arese

Peak Urban

Individual land titling remains a dominant feature of global slum-upgrading initiatives. Proponents of privatizing informal settlements argue that titles bring tenure security through legal, financial, and administrative clarity, allowing economic benefits for residents, including rental income, capital gains on sale, and access to credit. On the other hand, much research has since demonstrated how this approach can be deeply flawed, resulting in countless false claims, immediate resale of land, displacement, and creation of new informal settlements, and an explosion in land value that only benefits local patronage networks.

What is clear is that even in Europe or the United States, when considering easements, zoning, complex families, or mortgage derivatives, the idea that property can be entirely individualized remains mythical. Moving beyond the rhetorics of capitalist development and normative critiques of neoliberalism, this project will attempt to account for the fact that the realities of property are always highly complex, messy, and contingent: hidden values and aspirations laden within regimes of property ownership must be understood through their commensurability or incommensurability, factors that are only visible given enough time to document changes in the built environment and enough space to understand possible displacements of people.

This project studies cultures of property in Medellin’s Comunas and the reception of technologies currently working to make them more uniform. It aims to evaluate how developments in data gathering, mathematical modelling, and mobile mapping can document urban migration and violence to predict the effects of implementing different property rights arrangements. It then shifts to a propositional stance, via an “architectural social science,” through PEAK, land policy, and start-up funding networks: attempting to combine data and architecture services into a platform that helps sustain property rights beyond existing individualized models, including the acquisition, management, and profit sharing of mixed communal-individual land ownership.

Watch Dr Nicholas Simcik Arese describe his PEAK Urban research