Configurations of Public Space – debate and design

\’To promote a politics of inclusion, then, participatory democrats must promote the ideal of a heterogeneous public, in which persons stand forth with their differences acknowledged and respected, though perhaps not completely understood, by others.\’ Iris Marion YoungDescription:Public space is the object of desire for a vast array of constituents involved in the conception of the city and as such is exposed to great scrutiny and consternation. Yet its terms and qualities are elusive. If we can be both more precise and expansive in its conceptualisation, we will have begun to re-imagine the emancipatory role of that it offers. In this course, we will begin by asking foundational questions of public space. What is meant by \’public\’ and what is meant by \’space\’? Both deceptively simple questions have launched an industry of opinion. We will begin with a biased viewpoint that idealizes a democratic construction of the \’public\’ as elaborated by Jurgen Habermas and Hannah Arendt, understanding democratic only in the basic recognition of a public that is created rather than given. We will then follow critiques and elaborations of these two theories that have been offered by political and social critics calling for a conception of the public that is at once non-exclusionary and heterogeneous. A line of feminist critique will be followed through the works of Nancy Fraser, Seyla Benhabib, and Iris Marion Young among others. These critiques will help us to configure important concepts of public/private, the self, justice, and strong and weak publics relative to the understanding of public space. This line of investigation will occupy the first five classes.From this point, the class will transition into understanding current debates, designs, and critical practices in physical public space. A series of four themes will be followed for two classes each.The Virtual With this theme the class will review important collisions of media, telecommunications, and information technologies, and the public realm. While some critics assert the erosion of the public sphere by information technologies (Boyer) others optimistically forward the potential for a communicative ethos created by media broadcasting. How do the narratives of loss surrounding both the public realm and public space endure alongside a ubiquitous net culture and global television audiences? And has this synthetic programming environment rendered urban life, \’the polis,\’ obsolete (Kwinter) or has it reinforced its necessity? The SelfThis theme will address the construction of the modern self, occupant, or active participant in public space, and its evolution. Exploring the range of positions from the passive consumer of spectacle and space, to the active constructor of the public realm, we will reference Benhabib\’s concept of the \’embedded human self whose identity is constituted narratively\’ as well as Gueze\’s reconsideration of the \’urban victim.\’ We will review the role of the activist and publicity, through the actions and campaigns of Gran Fury, ACT-UP, and the Guerilla Girls, to the projects of Krzysztof Wodiczko and West 8 Landscape architects among others. Paid forWell before Charles Moore proclaimed in 1965 that you have to pay for public life, the battle over the provision of public space and the role of the state in its delivery has been crucial to American urbanism. For a nation that capitulates every aspect of public life to a rampant capitalism, the fear of privatised public space seems misplaced if not futile. We will review the subtle degrees of publicness within the (economically) private realm, and investigate the fluidity of these two realms as well as the legal definitions surrounding each. Projects for consideration include the larger field of urban entertainment zones, the private provision and management of public space, shopping in general (and The Harvard Guide to Shopping