The Challenge

Why is respect in such short supply when the city is imagined as a place where everyone shares respect across difference?

We invite teams of residents, artists, activists, architects, performers, and others to identify a space or a social relationship in Rio de Janeiro that you think produces a condition of disrespect in the city.

Then, design plans for an architectural, urban, performative or organisational intervention that enables the condition of respect between people across difference – that produces respect not as a scarce resource, but as one of plenty.


In order to be considered each submission must include the following, and be submitted online by 23:59 7th September 2016:

  • Visual materials of the design proposition including up to 5 images (photographs of a space, a site, an intervention or a performance, drawings, graphic design, etc.) OR 1 maximum video up to 3 minutes in length
  • 1 headline image to represent your project. If your team decides to send 5 images instead of video, please identify one of them to be the headline image. Do not send a 6th image.
  • 300 words rationale for the proposition (addressing the points outlined in DESIGN STRATEGY)
  • 50 words maximum bio and statement of involvement for each team member, up to a maximum of 6 members


“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.

Design Strategy

Identify a space, a physical structure, a neighbourhood, a resource, or a social relationship in Rio de Janeiro that currently produces a condition of disrespect in the city. For example, buildings, utilities or open spaces that don’t produce value for their communities; the under-provision of public infrastructure like housing, transportation, or culture; moments of violence, insecurity; bias or discrimination based on race, gender, class, sexuality, ability, or location in the city; or others identified by your team. Describe or show its current condition and context.

Design plans for an architectural, urban, performative or organisational intervention that enables the condition of respect between people across difference – that produces respect not as a scarce resource, but as one of plenty. The intervention may be temporary or may not have a physical manifestation in the space itself at all. It may, for example, be an online platform that enables conditions of respect to take place. However the design must show or describe both the intervention itself and the condition of respect that it allows to be collectively produced.

Give a short written rationale (300 words) referring to three main issues below:

1. Name the condition of disrespect in the city your project aims to address.
What is the condition of disrespect in the city that your design intervention aims to address? For example, do you identify a kind of disrespect in the sense of social, economic or racial inequality in the city? Or perhaps your team understands an urban condition of disrespect in the sense of an unequal distribution of resources like transportation, housing, parks, health or social services, cultural amenities between central and peripheral parts of the city? Or, does disrespect show in who is or is not included or excluded from being seen as a valued civic participant in city life, socially, economically, politically, culturally?

2.Explain how the design or intervention would be created.
Does the design or intervention require financial input or significant amounts of materials or unpaid labour? How might the design be self-subsisting over time so that its effects are amplified? Is it a one off event, or a transformation of a system? Could the design be repeated in multiple spaces or sites? Or is it locally specific?

3.Tell us how the design or intervention creates respect.
Tell us what you hope the outcome of this intervention might be? Explain how your design addresses the condition of disrespect you identified above, and why this is so important for the future of the city.


We encourage proposals from interdisciplinary teams that include performers, artists, activists, architects, urban designers, planners, and any other perspectives that have a relevant impact on the project.

Jury And Voting System

Entries will be judged in early September 2016. In the spirit of design and politics, the jurying of the 2016 ideas challenge will open up both to an expert jury, and also a peer jury system.

First, a more traditional expert jury will convene and each member will be asked to champion one entry that speaks to their professional and public concerns and expertise.

However, for the first time in Theatrum Mundi’s international challenges, the ten winning entries that will be exhibited alongside the jury’s champions at a public exhibition, will be chosen by peer jury. In early September, everyone who entered the ideas challenge will be invited to a day-long process where they will be able to view all the entries, and submit their lists of top-ten. However, each team will not be able to vote for their own entry – only others. Those who are not physically able to make it, will be invited to submit their lists electronically. Every effort will be made to ensure a maximum number of teams participate in the peer jury.


In late September 2016, an exhibition of the winning entries, and the expert jurors championed entries will be shown in Rio de Janeiro.

All entries submitted join the global archive of propositions about design and politics, and may be shown at a later time.


For the past two years, Theatrum Mundi (TM) held an annual ‘Ideas Challenge’ addressing the potentials and the limits of design in thinking critical questions about the politics of urban culture.

‘Designing for Free Speech’ (2014) in New York City: The challenge asked, can we design for free speech? What are the limits of formal design in relationship to the USA Constitution’s First Amendment?

‘Designing the Urban Commons’ (2015) in London: The challenge asked a question about ownership, stewardship and collective practice in relationship to the historic question of the commons, and its related verb: commoning.

In June 2016, Theatum Mundi launches the third annual ideas challenge in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This third challenge forms the first in a new four-year partnership with the ‘Global Cities’ Chair in the College d’études mondiales at the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme in Paris, that will extend the competition to Latin America, the Middle East and Asia.

Initial Expert Meeting

In March 2016, Theatrum Mundi hosted a seminar in Rio de Janeiro to explore possible questions, methods and outcomes for the ideas challenge. Participants included Gringo Cardia, Pedro Rivera, Washington Fajardo, Marcus Faustini, Eliana Souza, Jailson Silva, Leno Veras, Marcelo Duguettu, Batman Zavareze, Angelo Venosa, Mauro Ventura, Ana Claudia Souza, Gringo Cardia, Paul Heritage, and Adam Kaasa. From the conversations at the workshop, it emerged that the 2016 ideas challenge will address the concept of respect in the city.


March 2016 – Initial Expert Workshop
June 2016 – Launch of the Ideas Challenge
September 2016 – Jury and Exhibition

Programme Partners

‘Global Cities’ Chair at the College d’études mondiales / Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, Paris

Rio De Janeiro Partners 2016

Museu de Arte do Rio
​People’s Palace Projects