The Bartlett School of Planning


Cristian Silva Lovera

Research subject

Thesis title: The interstitial spaces of urban sprawl. The case of Santiago de Chile

Primary supervisor: Prof Nicholas Phelps
Secondary supervisor: Dr Sonia Arbaci
Sponsor: The Chilean National Commission of Science and Technology – CONICYT, Chile
Starting date: Sept 2012
Projected completion date: Sept 2016

My research is on issues of urban sprawl and particularly focused on the nature, importance and implications of undeveloped areas and open tracts in between developments – named here as interstitial spaces – that determine the fragmented condition of suburban landscapes in an interspersed coexistence with built-up areas. Along with the critical idea that the debate about sprawl has been mainly focused on the ‘built-up realm’, this research highlights the presence of the in-between landscape defined by several unbuilt (or less developed) areas left into the expansion as somehow random outcomes – other less controlled processes in planning – that emerge as a parallel geography within the suburban space: pieces of countryside, geographical restrictions, brownfields, landfills, farmlands, forest lands, green corridors, abandoned lands, public spaces, military facilities, speculative areas and others, all as components of an interstitial landscape made by apparently inert spaces included into the urban fabric but paradoxically excluded from planning politics.

So, what are these interstitial spaces? How are they? How these spaces have been produced? What is their importance and contributions for the suburban performance? What are their implications in planning? For answering these questions, the research tries to match the literature about urban sprawl – or the production of the suburban built-up space – with the nature of the unbuilt landscape that collates issues of political ecology, ecosystem services, green infrastructure, urban agriculture, natural capital and regional policy. Some advance in defining the unbuilt landscape has been done, but not necessarily posited as a dimension of urban sprawl and the environmental improvement of suburban areas. Nevertheless, useful terms for this debate are the ‘in-between spaces’ (Sieverts, 2003; 2011), ‘vacant lands’ (Northam, 1971; Foo et al., 2013), ‘undeveloped lands’ (Zhang et al. 2012), ‘open tracts’ (Gillham, 2002), ‘non-places’ (Auge, 1995), ‘terrain vague’ (De Solá-Morales, 2002; Mariani and Barron, 2014), ‘interfragmentary spaces’ (Vidal, 2002), ‘non-urbanized areas’ (La Rosa and Privitera, 2013; La Greca, et al, 2011), ‘Wildspaces’ (Jorgensen and Keenan, 2012), ‘wastelands’ (Gandy, 2013) and hardly used, the terms ‘urban interstices’ (Jorgensen and Tylecote, 2007; Mubi, 2013) and ‘interstitial landscapes’(Gandy, 2011; Sousa Matus, 2014), which are adopted in this research to refer to this less addressed dimension of sprawl and as one that requires closer inspection.

Thereby, this research aims to analyse the interstitial landscape using as case study the capital city of Chile, Santiago, which illustrates a traditional sprawling expansion mainly driven by the housing debate. The aim is to determine to what extent the interstitial landscape is another component of the (post)suburban expansion and what is the role of this alternative geography of the unbuilt space in the performance of current city-regions. 


I received a degree in Architecture in 2000 and an MSc in Architecture in 2006 at P. Universidad Católica de Chile. I am currently a PhD in Urban Studies (2012-2016) at The Bartlett School of Planning, UCL, London, UK.

I have been in academia from 2001, working as Lecturer in Architecture and Urban Design (Universidad de Los Lagos, Chile, 2000-2010, Universidad Tecnológica Metropolitana, UTEM, Chile, 2011-2012), as researcher at the Centre for Regional Studies and Local Development, CEDER (Universidad de Los Lagos, Chile, 2008-2009) and as Director of the Department of Architecture and Design at Universidad de Los Lagos, Chile (2006-2009). I have presented and published outcomes of my academic activities in Latin America and Europe aimed to academic, professional and non-expert audiences through conference presentations, peer review papers and public reports. From 2003 I have been permanently working as private consultant in Architecture and Planning for the indigenous community of San Juan de Costa, Chile.

My current research interests are centred on explorations of contemporary patterns of urban growth and change, urban fragmentation, scattered development including issues of metropolitan and regional development, all focused on the role and implications of undeveloped areas and open tracts as a way of providing a more comprehensive framework for the understanding of the urban sprawl phenomenon itself.

My PhD research is sponsored by the National Commission of Science and Technology, CONICYT, Chile, and The Bartlett School of Planning, UCL. The research is mainly focused on the presence and implications of undeveloped lands and open tracts in contemporary processes of (post)suburban growth. 

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  • SILVA, C (under revision) ‘Politics and implications of rural landscapes within urban sprawl. The case of Huertos Obreros y Familiares of La Pintana, Santiago de Chile’. Journal of Latin American Studies, University of Cambridge, UK
  • SILVA, C (accepted) 'The infrastructural lands of urban sprawl: planning potentials and political perils’. Town Planning Review (TPR). University of Liverpool, UK
  • SILVA, C (2015) 'Urban sprawl and infrastructural lands: Revamping internal spaces in Santiago de Chile'. Geoforum, 67, 36-40
  • SILVA, C (2013) ‘The concept of place as a factor of architectonic design: Similarities, differences and the analogical thinking as creative support’.  Revista TRILOGIA. Ciencia, Tecnologia y Sociedad.  25 (35) 61 – 76
  • SILVA, C (2012) ‘Public informal space: observations on the communal infrastructure and space in the squatter settlement of Pudeto Bajo in Ancud’, Revista Arquitecturas del Sur – AS 39 (1) 74 – 87
  • SILVA, C (2011) ‘Slum settlements in a country of centres and peripheries. Expressions of systemic poverty’, Revista URBANO 23 (1) 07 – 19
  • SILVA, C (2009) ‘Public space and citizen participation. The case of Maicolpue’s waterfront’. Public space and landscape: coast, valley and mountains. Revista CA, Colegio de Arquitectos de Chile. 136 (1) 38 – 41
  • SILVA, C (2008) ‘What is the architect that Chile needs? Interview with Directors of Architecture Schools’. Education and Profession. Revista CA, Colegio de Arquitectos de Chile, 134 (1) 40 – 41
  • SILVA, C (2007) ‘Comments about the Origins, Present and Future of the Department of Architecture and Design, Universidad de los Lagos. A place between the territory of unity and fragmentation’.  Arquitectura y Diseño 1 (1) 24 – 32
  • SILVA, C (2007) ‘Public and Urban Heritage. A discussion Tertulia’. Arquitectura y Diseño 1 (1) 51 – 62
  • SILVA, C (2007) ‘The double dimension of the architectonic project: Perspectives about the professional practice in Chile’, Arquitectura y Diseño 1 (1) 68 – 74
  • SILVA, C (2003) ‘Spontaneous Settlements: A Morphology of the Indeterminate’. In Anthropology and Regional Studies. From the Implementation towards the Action. Collection LIDER. p. 165 – 190

Short Articles, Commentaries and Public Reports

  • Silva, C (2010) ‘Urban transformation as an opportunity. Three Areas in Rahue district with condition as centre’. Rahue Comuna Newspaper 17
  • Silva, C (2009) ‘Definitions and landmarks for an urban limit in Rahue’. Rahue Comuna Newspaper 13
  • Silva, C (2009) ‘The village number 2: A high quality neighbourhood immerse in adverse surroundings’ Rahue Comuna Newspaper 09
  • Silva, C (2009) ‘Geography of opportunities: The Rahue’s highlands’. Rahue Comuna Newspaper 11
  • Silva, C (2009) ‘Housing and commerce: A positive and lasting relationship’. .Rahue Comuna Newspaper.10
  • Silva, C (2008) ‘Neighbourhoods with local workplaces: An approach to a sustainable Rahue Community’. Rahue Comuna Newspaper, 08
  • Silva, C (2008) ‘What we could learn from the French experience in Planning for a better social Integration?. Rahue Comuna Newspaper 07
  • Silva, C (2008) ‘Big architectonic projects in fragile urban surroundings'. Rahue Comuna Newspaper 06
  • Silva, C (2007) ‘Urban reality and discourse: the Rahue fair and its impacts on the Urban Landscape’. La Brecha Newspaper, 3
  • Silva, C (2007) ‘The restoration of Ramirez street: essential transformation or just makeup?’ La Brecha, Newspaper, 1 

Peer Review Conference Proceedings

  • (Applied): Silva, C (2016) ‘Vacant lands of urban sprawl: socio-environmental potentials and political implications of the non-built-up landscape. The case of Santiago de Chile’. Cities in Transformation: Processes, Problems and Policies. International Conference, St Catharine’s College, University of Cambridge (14-15 July) Cambridge, UK. Abstract sent
  • (Applied): Silva, C (2016) ‘Socio-environmental capital of urban sprawl: contributions of suburban rural spaces as green infrastructure and ecosystem services in Santiago de Chile’s expansion’. Cities and Citizenship in contemporary Latin America & the Caribbean. NALACS and TUDelft. Track 2 ‘Cities and Sustainable Development’ (16 and 17 June), Delft, Netherlands. Abstract sent
  • Silva, C (2016) ‘Urban sprawl and the production of interstitial spaces in Santiago de Chile’. Peri-urban landscapes in the neoliberal Americas. XXXIV International. Congress of the Latin American Studies Association, LASA 2016 (May 27th – 30th). NYC, USA. Abstract accepted.
  • Silva, C (2016) ‘Urban sprawl and the interstitial landscape: an insight for the nature and politics of undeveloped areas and open tracts in suburban spaces’. Spatiality and Temporality – International Symposium. Interdisciplinary Research Foundation (22 April 2016), Warsaw, Poland. Abstract accepted.
  • Silva, C (2016) ‘Determinants of Urban Sprawl. The case of Santiago de Chile’. PhD interchange seminars (February 10). The Bartlett School of Planning, UCL. London, UK
  • Silva, C (2016) ‘Santiago de Chile’s urban sprawl and strategies for controlling impacts’. Regional Urbanism in the Era of Globalisation (February 3rd – 5th). University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, UK.
  • Silva, C (2016) ‘Santiago de Chile’s urban sprawl and its interstitial spaces. A glimpse of its undeveloped landscape’. Chilean Society Seminars. UCL Chilean Society (January 22). University College London, London, UK.
  • Silva, C (2015) ‘Urban sprawl and interstitial spaces in Santiago de Chile: The role and implications of undeveloped areas and open tracts in processes of urban expansion’. Pp. 217-221. In Great Transformations. Recasting Regional policy. Winter Conference. Regional Studies Association, RSA. ISBN: 978-1-897721-51-3. London, UK
  • Silva, C (2015) ‘The place of rural landscapes and open tracts into (sub) urban sprawl. The case of Santiago de Chile’. Suburbanization and the post-urban city: Suburban growth and urban sprawl. Everyday Life in the 21st Century City conference, Florence, Italy
  • Silva, C (2015) ‘Urban sprawl and interstitial spaces: a conceptual definition for undeveloped areas and their morphological implications in planning’. Pp. 517-527. Changing Cities II: Spatial, Design, Landscape & Socio-economic Dimensions. ISBN: 978-960-6865-88-6, Porto Heli, Greece
  • Silva, C (2011) ‘Insular occupation forms in the south of Chile’, paper presented at the conference Floods, Alternatives and solutions Architecture. V International Congress of Architecture, Art and Design. University of the Caribbean, Barranquilla, Colombia
  • Silva, C (2010) ‘Informal cities in the south of Chile and urban poverty: from the generic territory to a systemic one’, paper presented at the Conference on Urban Geography and Social Dynamics, XXXI National Congress of Geography XVI, Universidad Austral, Chile
  • Silva, C (2005) ‘The phenotypic plasticity territories: The Cloud Cities’, paper presented at the conference on New Perspectives on Urban Land and Sustainability. First Latin American Congress on Anthropology, American Association of Anthropology (ALA). Rosario, Argentina
  • Silva, C (2005) ‘Methods for approaching to the architectural project in the first year: workshop samples and references’, paper presented at the National Congress of Architecture. National Association of Chilean Architects, Chile
  • Silva, C (2004) ‘Temporary housing and uncertainty: the new locations for slums’, paper presented at Anthropology in Chile, Results and Prospects. Symposium: Anthropology, Planning and Sustainability, V Chilean Congress of Anthropology. Universidad de Chile, Chile
  • Silva, C (2001) ‘Spontaneous settlement in the Aysen region in Chile’, paper presented at Challenges of Anthropology. Modern Society, Globalization and Difference. Symposium: Applied Anthropology on Regional Studies. IV Chilean Congress of Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, Universidad de Chile, Chile