Unit 3

What is public space for?

Up Yours, The Square Belongs to Everyone

Still from Cinema Paradiso

For about four weeks, we’ll focus on design in public — more specifically, you will propose designs that contribute to a communal public experience. Brown Prof. Bonnie Honig writes of the importance of public things… giving a theoretical basis for why public space and public things are important.

“The existence of public things — to meet each other, to fight about, to pay for together, to enjoy, to complain about — this is absolutely indispensable to democratic life.”

Your task is to propose or install a project that encourages interaction between people. Public art does not demand interaction; but public ‘design’ may. The journalist Mónica Guzmán can help us connect this prompt to politics: “Talking WITH people we don’t understand instead of ABOUT them is the most important thing we can do for our democracy.”

As noted in the video launch of Harvard Design Magazine’s issue dedicated to “Public”, public space had to be defined as such, and requires continual use and protection. I would argue that it needs continual re-imagination, attention and habitation. Quoting myself from Mold Magzine, “being in public helps to knit you into a community that is in continual need of your creative attention.”

Artists and designers are necessary in this regard. From a recent exhibition at the Walker Art Museum:

“The imagination creates the future,” writes Lewis Hyde, professor and author of the book The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World.1 This explains why we think of artists—whether “fine” artists or designers—as futurists.”

Public space, as one place that people of all income levels can participate in, is as important as ever. In the period after the start of Covid, curator Hans Ulrich Obrist wrote in the the Guardian

“When the situation is under control, [we] need to go into communities with art which don’t usually have access to it. In this time of crisis, it’s important that museums think about how they can go beyond their walls and reach everyone.”

Week 6

Show and tell

For Week 7

You have two weeks to identify a public space to work with. Choose more than one if you’re unsure. Choose a site for its particular qualities and affordances. In class, show us photographs, maps and/or other documentation of the site. What happens there? What do you hope would happen there? Who is there (that you know of)?


In class: Slider bars

For our third method activity, you will work with the form of the slider bar. Slider bars have a range between a minimum and a maximum. Create a minimum of 20 slider bars for various scenarios. Define the minimum and maximum as a way to stretch how we think about those scenarios.

Show us results from your slider bar activity as a way of stretching your conception about what you can do in your site.

Put your slider bars on this Miro board

Weeks 7—10

Outings to Davey Lopes Recreation Center, State Capitol, DWRI Letterpress, Peace & Plenty Park, Mary Elizabeth Sharpe Park, North Burial Ground, The Wild Place, and we’ll take a ride on the R Line.

Week 12

Final review of project

General Bibiliography