Although favelas remain morphologically distinct from the rest of the city, they are in persistent flux and change, constantly redefining their relationship with the formal. The fabric of the informal settlement continuously reflects an incremental process for house building using a variety of resources and forms that are ever changing, responsive to topography and able to adapt to the user needs, incorporating mix-uses and evolving through time.
How is this it the same or different from the formal? By understanding the organizational logic of the favela, one can better conceive of interventions that acknowledge and respond to the existing potentials and limitations of the urban fabric, as well as the various systems and values playing within it. The goal is to further understand and describe the social, political and material realm of the informal, looking at the scale of dwelling, settlement and the existing relationships with the rest of city (location, mediation of form, connectivity, etc.), including: Existing structures + tectonics, use of space, cultural values, public vs. private, thresholds, internal hierarchies, existing sectors/borders, urban form and ‘land use’ (residential, commercial, institutional, open/green spaces), identity, aesthetics, existing social network (frequented people/places and family ties), density and demographic study (number of households; disabled, employable, race, gender, migrants + origin, etc.)
In this manner, the aesthetics- or skin+ signs as I call it- is an interesting aspect to observe more profoundly as it sheds light to both the product, the dynamics, the process and evolution of informal settlements as well as of the people who create and inhabit them. Looking closely at the skin + signs, we gain a further understanding of the residents and households, as well as the use values, needs, cultural reflections, social aspirations, and other processes through which dwellings, buildings and the informal fabric are shaped by residents and the context.
Loïc Wacquant, professor of Sociology in the University of California at Berkeley, points out that, “Poverty is too often (wrongly) equated with material dispossession or insufficient income. But in addition to being deprived of adequate conditions and means of living, to be poor in a rich society entails having the status of a social anomaly and being deprived of control of one’s collective representation and identity.” In this respect, the image and representation is an important force to understand and know how to engage and address.
Through the following link are some amazing examples and photo-narrative of skins+signs in Bolivia published through i09.com.
 Wacquant, Loic, Urban Outcasts: color, class and place in two advanced societies, pp. 368