Rio, City of Ghettos: A Study of the Impact of Violence on the Urban Form

Soveral, Thiago Tavares Abranches de (2019). Rio, City of Ghettos: A Study of the Impact of Violence on the Urban Form. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis focuses on the impact of violence on urban form in Rio de Janeiro, showing how violence is spatialised. It shows how urban design reinforces segregation and how this segregation reinforces urban violence. The research conducted includes a historiographical analysis of the context in which irregular settlements were born, developed and consolidated in the city of Rio over 100 years, later giving rise to the favelas. The shifts in social values over time are identified, showing the favelas’ association as territories of violence. The research also focused on the invisibility of the favela in the city’s cartographic production.

The analysis of case studies discusses the growing ghettoization that emerges from the spatial strategies adopted by the urban planning secretariat, administrative decisions and, finally, urban planning plans, which reinforce a ghetto logic. This analysis identifies a convergence between the gated community model (ghettos of security) and the favelas (ghettos of violence). The comparative analysis of these territories with opposing characteristics reveals the structural limitations that reinforce their transformation into ghettos, following a logic of segregation, both created irregularly, in the margin of the current regulations. Both show an accelerated growth process in the last decades, contributing to the fragmentation of the common urban space into closed spaces, inhabited by socio-cultural and economically homogeneous social groups, losing the form of a city.

This research has shown that the concept of gated communities has been changing in Rio, and today, gated communities require a redefinition. Fortified enclaves are proliferating in Rio, driven by a culture of fear. This urban ghettoization is therefore a concern for architects, urban planners, policymakers and inhabitants, especially in the context of Rio—a city defined by urban violence for more than half a century. The research shows the need for urgent intervention through urban design for the city of Rio. However, these transformations will only happen through the redesign of regulatory frameworks.

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