Reclaiming public space.

December 1, 2010 at 12:30 pm 4 comments

As much as I love the High Line here in New York, it bums me out that it’s only open until 8pm during the winter. In my opinion, there also seem to be a lot of rules for what is fundamentally a recreational space… but I still very much love the park, and I don’t think I’ve broken any of the rules (though climbing stuff now suddenly sounds like fun).

The more I think about public space, the more I realize how much of it is actually semi-public. I have mixed feelings about this fact. What I don’t have mixed feelings about (because I really love all these examples) is the re-claiming or otherwise surprising usage of public space demonstrated below:


Aram Bartholl has started installing USB drives throughout New York City in a project called Dead Drops, part of his residency at Eyebeam. According to Bartholl’s blog, Dead Drops is “an anonymous, offline, peer to peer file-sharing network in public space.” Discovered via Laughing Squid. Both photos by Aram Bartholl.


A documentary by artist Marisa González highlights how, on Sundays, the plaza of Norman Foster‘s Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Headquarters (and specifically the HSBC Hong Kong Bank) becomes filled with Filipina women, most of whom work long and underpaid hours as domestic helpers on other days of the week. In the words of the artist, “these women change the meaning of the commercial public space, where they transport their habits and traditions through leisure, rest, religion and culture. The luxury downtown city on Sundays becomes a domestic space where they meet, rest, eat, dance, play cards and pray.” Discovered via Pruned.


Closer to home, the BQE BYO (held as part of Park(ing) Day) transformed a whole slew of parking spaces at the intersection of Washington and Park Avenue in Brooklyn into a shared dining and party space. Kudos to the Design Trust for Public Space and their collaborators (Architecture for Humanity New York, Do:Tank Brooklyn, Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project, and Transportation Alternative) for this great event. Before and after photos by Adam Brodowski.

December 1’s daily design idea is how public can public space be? How public should public space be? And, even more difficult yet, should all public space be equally public?

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