The Power of the Powerless: The Favelas of Rio de Janeiro

author: Peter Trawny, Bergische Universität Wuppertal
published: Feb. 20, 2019,   recorded: September 2018,   views: 58

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One of the prejudices of architecture is that mostly or even only monumental buildings represent power (cf. Deyan Sudjic: The Edifice Complex: How the Rich and Powerful Shape the World). This idea is already influenced by a certain tradition of the overwhelming and the sublime: Big monuments are powerful – actually a banality. In this view, political and economical power has been realising its intrinsic self-understanding since the Egyptian pyramids. But the presence of poverty and social exclusion are even more telling, because they begin to determine a city's situation. In Rio de Janeiro every tourist immediately remarks and feels the presence of the so called Favelas (today, the term Comunidade shall replace the old term). The topography of the city (many hills) enables a certain architecture, in which the houses of the poor dominate the houses of the middle-class. Also the traffic-situation, etc., depends on the location (and the cooperation) of those politically powerless neighbourhoods. My paper shall elaborate this situation for another understanding of power in architecture.

Peter Trawny, philosopher and Heidegger-editor, teaches philosophy at the Bergische University Wuppertal. His main writings include: On Freedom: Technology. Capital. Medium (Bloomsbury, 2017); Heidegger and the Myth of a Jewish World-Conspiracy (English translation, University of Chicago Press, 2015). Forthcoming: Heidegger-Fragmente: Eine philosophische Biographie (S. Fischer).

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