Civic Spaces in an Age of Hyper-Complexity: From Protest to Reverie

As civic spaces must now address manifold demands, more innovative and potent tools are necessary for their design.  This elective studio will explore a range of digital design tools including three-dimensional modeling in developing conceptions with a more adaptive and responsive design ethos that allows for complex experiences from the immense to the intimate.  Students will be encouraged to invent a unique design language through a series of design exercises to develop landscape and architecture that focuses on both large and small-scale experiences. 

Today’s public spaces host an array of experiences, from the everyday use of space for respite, restoration and play to seasonal cultural events, and temporary spontaneous communal gatherings.  Additionally, these public spaces can catalyze democratic engagement.  The Zocalo in Mexico City, the Berlin Wall, MacArthur Park in Los Angeles are just a few examples of the use of public space for political protest and social expression, bringing awareness to crucial environmental, political and socio-economic issues.  In general, design of these open spaces has focused on fulfilling either the everyday or the exceptional.  But, in a time of rapidly and urgently oscillating needs, our challenge as designers is to provide the plasticity and adaptability to sites necessary for both personal and communal expression.

In this studio, students will integrate the powerful tools of digital design in their process to address the often-conflicting civic needs of contemporary public space.  We will begin by identifying patterns of human behavior as well as the issues of rising sea level through the framework of structural and material innovations.  Using the Boston Seaport District as our site, students will design landscapes and structures that can expand/contract, inflate/deflate, accumulate/degrade, in order to accommodate both large scale political expression and dispersed individual community use.   By the final review, students will have developed their own unique approach to designing that is responsive and nimble, reflecting the diverse, hyper-complex and dynamic society that we live in today.