In a time when public monuments are being challenged in the Unites States and across the world, it is incumbent on architects, artists, and designers to create works that are able to inform, enlighten and provoke as well as delight. Public space has become an amplified realm for polarized social expression and action, and at the same time is being further stretched by public health concerns. It should be the priority of the designer to create spaces that can serve as safe and welcoming platforms to support productive discourse in a meaningful way. Architects should have heard by now the call to action to create inclusive and equitable spaces with priority given to how these places and installations engage with the community and how they become instruments of progressive social change. If not, now is the time to heed.
In thinking of installations for public space, we begin to imagine the many ways they could provide opportunities to project a sense of unity, foster dialogue, and engage the public. We are intrigued by the multitude of possibilities: how installations may serve as pedagogical tools on social issues, support community initiatives, or address pressing climate change concerns (an increasingly critical discussion). The local and contextual histories of any given city are seen as potential influences, as well. Pairing these influences with the installation and the present events of the city, we can envision the development of certain design ruminations for the new public space.
While recent published public art completed during the pandemic may be vividly necessary, it can also be reactionary, conveying an unintended timelessness that translates as exclusionary. In these unusual times, as we project ideas onto the city, we need to self-assess and weigh current social issues that might be rife with potential adverse ramifications in the future.
For many architects, realigning their own personal narratives over the past few months has meant video calls with loved ones around the world, long walks through their cities, and discovering new and old ways of reconnecting with their immediate surroundings. This technological flexibility in engaging with each other and the built environment fortifies our resiliency, offers us a chance for intellectual escape and time for introspection. It is this resilience of the human spirit that should serve as inspiration in the design of better, lasting public space installations. This is one way we might to begin to transcribe an accurate history on our cities. - Mazen
E.g. Consider a developing seaside district in Boston, continuing to give thought to these social issues, the historical narratives of the City, and the desires of an expanding neighborhood. Now consider the idea of the illuminated beacon as an architectural agitator, perhaps a typological object of interest. A datum of beacons is imagined to comprise a forum—providing a space of assembly with not one, but many focal points. Signifying a pluralistic approach to public discourse, in this datum there is equity, diversity, equal footing, illuminated connections and exchange, in short a place for multiple points of view to be expressed and thoughtfully considered. We see these beacons as objects of desire that could, perhaps in a second life, be scattered to Boston’s twenty-three neighborhoods to serve in their own iconic forms with the memory that the forum has expanded beyond.