“Lack of respect, though less aggressive than an outright insult, can take an equally wounding form. No insult is offered another person, but neither is recognition extended; he or she is not seen—as a full human being whose presence matters.
When a society treats the mass of people in this way, singling out only a few for recognition, it creates a scarcity of respect, as though there were not enough of this precious substance to go around. Like many famines, this scarcity is man-made; unlike food, respect costs nothing. Why, then, should it be in short supply?”
Richard Sennett, Respect: The Formation of Character in an Age of Inequality
The city is imagined as a place where everyone shares respect across difference. It is often described as a collective physical and cultural creation where a minimal standard of social relations allows people very different from one another to live together in relative peace.
And yet, cities remain spaces of extreme accumulations of wealth and extreme conditions of poverty. The resulting spatial form of the city equally produces gulfs between the overly provisioned spaces of infrastructure and amenity, and other spaces actively ignored by private or public bodies.
Cities all over the world have lost faith in the urban capacity to produce respect. This is evidenced by the growth of urban fear, and of urban poverty. There is a proliferation of gated communities and of hyper-securitized private spaces of and for the wealthy perpetually in fear of the urban ‘other’. In comparison there is the under-provision of land or housing for the new urban migrants and urban poor and swathes of urban territories beyond state control.
If the city is to be imagined as a system, as a space, as a sociability that can produce the condition of respect across difference, where do we see that city today? In an era of mass privatization of public space and public life, where does an urban public sustain themselves materially or culturally? Where today is there space in public for people to cohabit together and produce a city of respect?
Respect as an action, a condition, a social relationship differs from the history of ‘respectability’ where certain classed, raced, gendered or abled bodies were privileged over others through codes of looking ‘respectable’. Equally, we do not think of ‘respect’ as having non-critical deference or ‘respect’ for institutions of power or privilege that might be the agents of producing structural disrespect. This challenge asks to think beyond the familiar lines of respect for authority, respect for elders, respect for power – and instead consider those lines of power as collective entanglements of disrespect. Rio de Janeiro through its long history living with, in and through difference, and at a moment of intense urban and political transformation, is the urgent site of a consideration of Designing for Respect.
This competition asks for existing land, architecture, social or physical infrastructures in neighbourhoods across Rio de Janeiro to be re-imagined as spaces to fight for, argue after or produce anew the conditions of respect in the superdiversity of the 21st century metropolis. The design itself though is not the final product; It could be the process through which community or urban relationships, spaces and organisations are built.