Environment: Penthouses for the Poor

Although about 2,000,000 of Mexico City's 9,000,000 inhabitants live in squalor, one out of every four of them has risen above the crime, noise and filth of street shanties. They occupy, with the city's tacit approval, hovels that they build on the flat roofs of solid buildings. While these penthouse poor prefer the roofs of small, low structures (where limited space holds fewer families and gives greater privacy), they gladly share the tops of taller buildings with each other, humming elevator equipment, water tanks and thickets of TV antennae.

This sensible use of empty real estate began back in colonial times, when...

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