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The Invention of Public Space

Designing for Inclusion in Lindsay’s New York

2020
Author:

Mariana Mogilevich

The Invention of Public Space

The interplay of psychology, design, and politics in experiments with urban open space


Mariana Mogilevich details a watershed moment when designers, government administrators, and residents sought to remake New York City in the image of a diverse, free, and democratic society. Combining psychology, politics, and design, she uncovers a critical moment of transformation in understanding city life and reveals the emergence of a concept of public space that remains today a powerful aspiration.

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 Spaceconsiders 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 Spacebrings 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.

The Invention of Public Space

Mariana Mogilevich is a historian of architecture and urbanism and editor-in-chief of the Urban Omnibus, the online publication of the Architectural League of New York.


The Invention of Public Space

Contents


Introduction: The Invention of Public Space


1. Space and Politics in Lindsay’s New York


2. Topographies of Experience: Jacob Riis Plaza


3. Strangers and Neighbors: Residential Territories


4. Open Space as Interface: Vest-Pocket Parks


5. Pedestrian Experiments: Designs on the Street


6. Metropolitan Environments: The Waterfront Park


Epilogue: The Deaths and Lives of Urban Public Space


Acknowledgments


Abbreviations for Frequently Cited Archival Collections


Notes


Index