on public-ness

It was a pleasure to present my work along with the company of Frances Hsu (Aalto University) and Sally Harrison (Temple University), as part of "Knowledge in the Public Interest" panel moderated by Nadia M. Harrison (Iowa State University) during ACSA 104 in Seattle. Frances presented an exciting overview of architectural initiatives, such as the Helsinki Design Lab, to engage the government, Finnish parliament and the broader public in dialogue through workshops and other activities with the ultimate goal to improve (life in) the city. My presentation dealt with experimental pedagogical methods that rely on installations and exhibitions (the artistic approach). By comparing and contrasting two exhibitions developed during my Thesis Lab studio at WIT, I showed how public-ness starts within the class, and within each institution, and how we can educate civic-minded architects. Sally spoke of gentrification (the moment when cafes popup and rents go up, the poor are being displaced, and white people drive bikes around) in heterogenous cities, in particular the example of Philadelphia, and efforts made during her course to integrate communities and create shared amenities (in a City Hall fashion) at the borders of conflicting neighbourhoods through hybrid design, short-term interventions, and speculative projects. 

The diversity of approaches in the panel was helpful to quickly move away from discussions on particular community engagements, to the mapping of constructing knowledge on public-ness. What became clear in our panel, was that the role of architect is changing, or needs to (still) change, beyond that of simply serving models of profit. We discussed matters related to the right to the city, the need of an architectural activism, and an architectural and/or educational revolution. I was particularly excited to hear other people bringing up as well the problematics of licensing exams and internships, in relation to money-making and profitable enterprises. At the end, questions concluded to the simple but essential: How to create a better city?



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