Category Archives: public space

Boarded Up

London-based graphic designer James Reynolds posts up on abandoned buildings and gets some love for it. It is nice to see such a simple and sincere concept for public art.

Post up

Look for Cincinnati’s version around town via Keep Cincinnati Beautiful’s Future Blooms.

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Filed under DIY urbanism, Imaging, public art, public space

Findlay Doll

Saw this outside Madison’s.

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Filed under Cincinnati, folk art, public art, public space

The Art of the Urban Farm Dance Party

Work Architecture Company, winners of the Young Architects Program, installed an urban farm inside the courtyard of P.S.1 in Queens for their weekly summer dance party. What a seemingly random amalgamation of things; dance party, art and urban agriculture. Leave it to P.S. 1.

(from NyTimes)

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More Urban Play

More urban play from a masters industrial design student at Central Saint Martin.

71% of adults used to play on the streets when they were young. 21% of children do so now. Are we designing children and play out of the public realm?

This project is a study into different ways of bringing play back into public space. It focuses on ways of incorporating incidental play in the public realm by not so much as having separate play equipment that dictates the users but by using existing furniture and architectural elements that indicate playful behaviour for all. (via pixelsumo)

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Urban Play

I have mentioned the ideas DIY Urbanism here before, but recently came across an interesting project by Droog Design in the Netherlands. Its called Urban Play and is described as a catalyst to inspire creativity in the public domain. The event includes a number of individuals and groups who have come up here before including GRL, You Are Beautiful and a few others.

The site is short on content right now, but it does feature a statement from one of Cincinnati’s cultural “elite”, Aaron Betsky, who says,

Urban Play is designed to take back the street… to give us the tools that let us install ourselves, our friends, our families, our games and our desires in what should be the space we all own collectively. Urban Play is the most promising experiment in not urban design, but designing the urban I have seen so far.

There is a more in-depth overview of the project at the ExperimentaDesign site which mentions

Individuals are taking it upon themselves to physically alter their cities to make them more creative, interactive, personal and fun. What we are witnessing is an unparalleled level of creative urban intervention which represents the intersection of the latest genre of street art and the beginnings of open source urban design.

It is this idea of open source urban design that really caught my attention. This idea suggest that what is commonly considered vandalism can also be a civic endeavor. For all the private property rights advocates out there I know you’ll have a blast with this one, but rest assured, or don’t rest, that these ideas are becoming more intrinsic to the emerging urban culture. Without tolerance for these types of activities cities will have a difficult time remaining competitive. People want to be involved, but they don’t want to sit at the table and speak the language of yesteryear just to be heard.

This comment by curator Scott Burnham sums it up perfectly for me.

While some social attitudes have previously dismissed urban intervention as a form of vandalism, at the heart of this current wave of DIY urban design is in fact a deeply sophisticated movement driven by artists and designers who want to expand our relationship between creativity and the city.

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Fountain Square, A Traditional Public Forum?

I am slightly obsessed with the nature of public space so I find the whole Fountain Square abortion exhibit fascinating. Not because of the content, but because of the changing expectations of public space. The comment in the enquirer article by Fountain Square Managing Director Bill Donabedian sums this up pretty well. He says, “I think people would agree the square prior to renovation was about political space,” he said. “(Today) they see it as entertainment venue.”

This, for me, is the crux of the issue. What is the purpose of public space in the context of today’s cities? Are places like the renovated Fountain Square, and the renovation is important here, meant to be “traditional public forums.”

In determining the rights and privileges we have in public space the courts have established three categories of public spaces. The most protected of these is the “traditional public forum.”

In a 1939 case, Hague v. Committee for Industrial Organization, the Supreme court ruled that,

Streets and parks…have immemoriably been held in trust for the use of the public and, time out of mind, have been used for purposes of assembly, communicating thoughts between citizens, and discussing public issues. Such use has, from ancient times, been part of the privileges, immunities, and liberties of citizens.

With regards to free speech in a traditional public forum, the state may not restrict speech based on content unless it can show that its regulation is necessary to serve a compelling state interest and is specifically tailored to achieve that interest.

In terms of Fountain Square specifically, the courts have ruled that,

It is well established that Fountain Square is a traditional public forum (Congregation Lubavitch v. City of Cincinnati , 997 F.2d 1160, 1161 (6th Cir. 1993). Therefore, the City’s regulation of speech on Fountain Square is subject to the highest level of scrutiny. More here.

Given that this ruling applied to the old Fountain Square should it now fall under a lesser-scrutinized classification? There is more information about the distinctions between the classifications here.

Would this be in the contemporary public interest, or a legitimate state interest? Is attracting tourist, families, the managerial class, and new residents more important than political dialog?

Could an argument be constructed that it is in the state’s interest to reclassify Fountain Square, or that there is a legitimate reason to be more selective about the events that take place there?

This is after all what has been happening, not just on Fountain Square but in public space in general. Bill’s comment illustrates that the general public thinks differently about Fountain Square and the fact is that his position is to manage this “traditional public forum”, which “provides overall leadership, direction, and focus to deliver the vision for the revitalized Fountain Square.

Maybe it can be both, maybe politics is the new entertainment. Aftter all Obama is the world’s biggest celebrity.

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Domesticating Public Space

As long as there have been cities, their residents have spread out, outside, when the temperature rises. New Yorkers have long been in the habit of bringing out lawn chairs, card tables and mattresses — even sofas and televisions — turning sidewalks and fire escapes into living rooms, dining areas and sleeping porches. But there are those, like Mr. Tsao, for whom the usual stoop picnic is not enough, expansionist entertainers who are putting a new spin on an old practice, and domesticating public space in ever more elaborate ways.

From the nytimes

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