About this collection

Ned Levine is an urban researcher who lives in Houston, Texas, with more than 50 years in academia and professional practice.  Research interests include housing development, particularly in developing countries, and human adaption to these environments.  These photographic collections of urban environments were taken between 1968 and 1989 in six different developing countries: Turkey, Trinidad, Tahiti, Singapore, Jamaica, and Egypt. The aim was to show the diversity of housing, both in terms of ‘formal’ housing development as well as the informal development that frequently occurs in many countries.  A final aim was to show the people who inhabit these places; housing by itself means little without considering the people who live in it.

The formal sector is related to land acquisition, formal plans and permitting, and regular construction.  The informal sector, however, is the result of large numbers of people, usually from rural areas, descending upon cities in search of jobs, housing and opportunities for their children.  The formal sector has not been able to absorb such numbers, and so informal housing is built as a response, usually on land that is either publicly-owned or ambiguous with respect to ownership.  The population living in these homes, in turn, adapt to the urban environment by usually taking low wage jobs, often on an ad hoc basis.  This process, however, helps create an informal economy that has its own job structure.  Further, the migrants and their children also change the urban environment to incorporate their culture and needs. While the government and the ‘elite’ of these countries expect the migrants to adapt to their society, over time the urban and political systems of these countries are affected by those who live in it.  It is a ‘two-way’ process of change and one that is still emerging around the world.  To understand politics, urban form, architecture, popular culture, life styles, tastes, and even food requires grasping the interaction between the urban and rural populations of the country. 

There are six photographic collections that capture these themes:

1.      Ankara, Turkey: 1968-76

2.      Port of Spain, Laventille, & St. Augustine: Trinidad: 1979

3.      Papeete, Tahiti: 1982

4.      Singapore: 1984

5.      Ocho Rios, Jamaica: 1986

6.      Cairo, the ‘City of the Dead’, and 6th of October, Egypt: 1989



These collections are hosted by the DIVA Team at Academic Technology, San Francisco State University.

For questions about the collection, please contact the DIVA Team:

Email: digitize@sfsu.edu