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Democracy and Design: Imagining New Public Realms

Semester and Year SP 2019
Course Number IDSEM-UG1994
Section 001
Instructor Gianpaolo Baiocchi
Days M
Time 2:00 PM - 4:45 PM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   SOC


IDSEM-UG 1994 and ARTS-UG 1633 are offered together. Students enrolled in IDSEM-UG 1994 will focus their work on research, critical analysis, and writing; students enrolled in ARTS-UG 1633 will design alternatives for the built public realm. Projects will be developed by teams combining students from both groups.


What does it mean to design democratically? This course explores some of the many ways of answering this question by crossing boundaries between architecture and urbanism, social science research, public realm process, and technology. In this course, we begin by considering the network of public spaces (from the city’s streets to its power supplies) in New York City as a system of functional and aesthetic interactions and a social reality. We turn, then, to the possibilities of design to intervene in this network. What does it mean for an urban space to reflect democraticness? How should we, as democratically-minded designers, think about the sometimes conflicting demands of civility and the pressures of a well-functioning city? How do we think about the tension between civility and democracy? How do we make sense of the way that calls for public space often come from city elites? Is it possible to use design to undermine power? Students will work in teams to define these conceptual problems and will make use of state-of-the-art technology and reflect on it to reimagine what a civic space might look like. While all students will write critical papers as well as work on design exercises using state-of-the-art software, students are asked to elect to enroll in one of two course code options; Option 1 (an Interdisciplinary Seminar, wherein major work completed is of the written type) or Option 2 (A Design Workshop, wherein major work completed is a design project). All students will also participate in three walking tours of public spaces led by the instructors during class hours.


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)