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Designs on the Public

The Private Lives of New York’s Public Spaces

2007
Author:

Kristine F. Miller

Designs on the Public

Analyzes the significant role of designers in defining public spaces

Kristine F. Miller delves into six of New York’s public spaces, including Times Square, Trump Tower, and Sony Plaza, to trace how design influences their complicated existence. Design is, in Miller’s view, complicit in regulation of public spaces in New York City to exclude undesirables and privilege commercial interests, and in this work she shows how design can reactivate public space and public life.

Given the rapid redevelopment of public spaces in American cities, Designs on the Public is both timely and necessary.

Don Mitchell, author of The Right to the City: Social Justice and the Fight for Public Space

New York City is home to some of the most recognizable places in the world. As familiar as the sight of New Year’s Eve in Times Square or a protest in front of City Hall may be to us, do we understand who controls what happens there? Kristine F. Miller delves into six of New York’s most important public spaces to trace how design influences their complicated existence.

Miller chronicles controversies in the histories of New York locations including Times Square, Trump Tower, the IBM Atrium, and Sony Plaza. The story of each location reveals that public space is not a concrete or fixed reality, but rather a constantly changing situation open to the forces of law, corporations, bureaucracy, and government. The qualities of public spaces we consider essential, including accessibility, public ownership, and ties to democratic life, are, at best, temporary conditions and often completely absent.

Design is, in Miller’s view, complicit in regulation of public spaces in New York City to exclude undesirables, restrict activities, and privilege commercial interests, and in this work she shows how design can reactivate public space and public life.

Designs on the Public

Kristine F. Miller is associate professor of landscape architecture at the University of Minnesota.

Designs on the Public

Given the rapid redevelopment of public spaces in American cities, Designs on the Public is both timely and necessary.

Don Mitchell, author of The Right to the City: Social Justice and the Fight for Public Space

Miller’s insightful book offers valuable lessons for those practicing design and administering public spaces in New York City and elsewhere.

Planning Magazine

As Kristine F. Miller’s fascinating and timely book Designs on the Public shows, in New York City, the term public space carries especially strong, if complicated, meanings that belie the distinction between the phrase and its apparent opposite.

Architects Newspaper

Miller’s symptomatic and critical reading of the six spaces she studies makes this a comprehensive, readable text. It will be of interest not only to people interested in design, but also to those interested in the legislation and regulation of public spaces, neo-liberal constructions of citizenship, the functioning of democracy and the study of marginalized subjectivities. Since Miller’s archive consists of some of the most recognizable landmarks in popular culture, it will also be of interest to those with scholarly or casual interests in New York and its culture.

Urban Studies