Configurations of Public Space – debate and design

\”All struggles against oppression in the modern world begin by redefining what had previously been considered \’private\’, non-public, and non-political issues as matters of public concern, as issues of justice, as sites of power that need discursive legitimation.\” Seyla BenhabibThis seminar course will examine contemporary theories, debates, and design practices of public space making. Through readings, discussions, and class presentations we will explore the perceived crisis of public space, evaluate postmodern and feminist constructions of the public sphere, and develop a framework for a critical investigation of the claims and merits of current public space practice. Five topic areas, fear/control, the virtual, privatization, the everyday, and \”nature\”, will structure discussions and case study presentations by the instructor and the students. The purpose of this course is twofold. The first is to reconceptualize the definition of publics and their spatial practices in light of contemporary political and social theory, and the second is to broaden the territory of design and intervention in which designers and planners operate.Student presentations will take place on alternate Friday\’s beginning in the fifth week. Students are required to complete the assigned readings, present one public space case study, and to complete a twenty-page research paper. Students of all disciplines within the design school as well as graduate and undergraduate students of Harvard and MIT have successfully attended this course.