Call for Contributions

Promoting open discourse about the politics of urban informality, we welcome contributions to this atlas by researchers, artists or activists about the architectures and socio-political workings of informal markets across the globe.

If you wish to add your textual or visual material to this online collection of case studies, please contact the research team.


Findings of the research have been published in

(selected chapters available as PDF)

Introduction / Peter Mörtenböck and Helge Mooshammer
"Notorious Markets"
Bangkok's Red Zones / Peter Mörtenböck and Helge Mooshammer
Hipster Markets
Talad Rot Fai / Peter Mörtenböck and Helge Mooshammer

(selected chapters available as PDF)

Introduction / Peter Mörtenböck, Helge Mooshammer, Teddy Cruz and Fonna Forman
Other Markets / Helge Mooshammer
Global Informality / Peter Mörtenböck

The gravities of the world are shifting. Supposed peripheries are moving centre stage, challenging not only the hegemony of the former West but the very system on which the established global order has been operating. Informal activities are at the core of this transformation, extending the reach of emergent economies into ever new areas. Once understood as a marginal phenomenon, they are rapidly becoming the key focus of future prospects. Currently, the conflict rages about the integration of these emerging markets into competing politico-economic power constellations. But informality is not just an economic issue. Informal markets are also places of intense social interaction, fostering cultures of different values and alternate relations. Here, not only monetary values circulate but questions of resource sustainability, cooperative decision making, and social cohesion come into play – issues that are gaining critical importance in times of crisis.

The essays in the reader debate the scope of informality for generating economic, social and political change. From discussing the conceptual challenges behind the development of a new political economy based on the philosophical, legal, and social architecture of ‘other markets’ to exploring how changing global relations are already initiating new forms of urban practice, these analyses provide a thorough understanding of what is at stake in the new geography of Informal Market Worlds. With contributions by Teddy Cruz, Keith Hart, Jiang Jun, Lawrence Liang, MAP Office, Vyjayanthi Rao, Ananya Roy, Saskia Sassen, AbdouMaliq Simone, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Ignacio Valero, Matias Viegener, and others.

The accompanying atlas brings together more than 80 case studies on the spatial and visual culture of informal markets from around the world. Sites range from street vending in Bangkok’s ‘red zones’ and grasshopper traders in North Korean underground markets to Vietnamese markets on the Czech border and the 7km container market outside Odessa, from Tijuana’s sprawling mercados sobreruedas and the cross-border trade between Haiti and the Dominican Republic to Guangshen counterfeit markets and micro-retailing in Lima. Together, these portraits produce a striking picture of newly emerging spatio-economic typologies of informal exchange and the ways they yield adaptations to the use of territorial, social and legal resources. In addition, innovative cartographic analyses of the transnational trajectories characterising these irregular economic and social forces provide multi-angle perspectives on these decisive yet still often overlooked global dynamics.

Publisher: nai010 publishers, Rotterdam
Graphic design: Studio Grootens, Amsterdam
Publishing date: March 2015 

To order copies of the books, please visit


Launch events and presentations

Storefront for Art and Architecture New York
97 Kenmare Street, NY 10012
24 October 2015, 5:30 - 7:30 pm

with Peter Mörtenböck, Helge Mooshammer, Teddy Cruz, Fonna Forman, Robert Neuwirth, Viyayanthi Rao, and Hakan Topal

Interrogation series: Informal Public Demands
(recording of livestream, discussion starts at 20'30'')

California College of the Arts (CCA), San Francisco
Room E4, SF Main Campus
10 February 2016, 5:30 pm

with Peter Mörtenböck, Helge Mooshammer, and Ignacio Valero

cityLAB - University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)
Perloff Hall, Decafe, UCLA
17 February 2016, 4:00 pm

with Teddy Cruz, Fonna Forman, Peter Mörtenböck, Helge Mooshammer, Ananya Roy, Matias Viegener, Dana Cuff, Maite Zubiaurre, and Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris 

Further writings on informal markets by the research team have been published in:

'Informal Worlds Reader'
Interview with Edgar Pieterse (African Centre for Cities / University of Cape Town)
in cityscapes 7, November 2015

‘Informal Market Worlds: Instruments of Change’
by Peter Mörtenböck & Helge Mooshammer
in Scapegoat Journal – Architecture, Landscape, Political Economy 4 (Currency) 2013
ISBN 978–1482370683

‘Trade Flow: Architectures of Informal Markets’
by Peter Mörtenböck & Helge Mooshammer
in Architecture in the Space of Flows by Andrew Ballantyne & Christopher Smith (eds.)
Routledge, London 2011
ISBN 978-0-415-58542-2

Netzwerk Kultur: Die Kunst der Verbindung in einer globalisierten Welt
by Peter Mörtenböck & Helge Mooshammer
transcript Verlag, Bielefeld 2010
ISBN 978-3-8376-1356-8

Networked Cultures – Parallel Architectures and the Politics of Space
by Peter Mörtenböck & Helge Mooshammer (eds.)
NAi Publishers, Rotterdam 2008
ISBN 978-90-5662-059-2

‘Spaces of encounter: informal markets in Europe’
by Peter Mörtenböck & Helge Mooshammer
in ARQ – Architectural Research Quarterly Vol 12, No 3/4, 2008
ISSN 1359-1355  EISSN 1474-0516