Interview between host Bryan Toepfer, AIA, NCARB, CAPM and author Mariana Mogilevich
As suburbanization, racial conflict, and the consequences of urban renewal threatened New York City with “urban crisis,” the administration of Mayor John V. Lindsay (1966–1973) experimented with a broad array of projects in open spaces to affirm the value of city life. Mariana Mogilevich provides a fascinating history of a watershed moment when designers, government administrators, and residents sought to remake the city in the image of a diverse, free, and democratic society.
New pedestrian malls, residential plazas, playgrounds in vacant lots, and parks on postindustrial waterfronts promised everyday spaces for play, social interaction, and participation in the life of the city. Whereas designers had long created urban spaces for a broad amorphous public, Mogilevich demonstrates how political pressures and the influence of the psychological sciences led them to a new conception of public space that included diverse publics and encouraged individual flourishing. Drawing on extensive archival research, site work, interviews, and the analysis of film and photographs, The Invention of Public Space considers familiar figures, such as William H. Whyte and Jane Jacobs, in a new light and foregrounds the important work of landscape architects Paul Friedberg and Lawrence Halprin and the architects of New York City’s Urban Design Group.
The Invention of Public Space brings together psychology, politics, and design to uncover a critical moment of transformation in our understanding of city life and reveals the emergence of a concept of public space that remains today a powerful, if unrealized, aspiration.
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