Metropolis Q&A: Mariana Mogilevich on New York City’s Path to a More Democratic and Diverse Civic Realm

Upon the release of her book The Invention of Public Space, the architectural historian discusses a little-known but pivotal chapter of urban history.

The interplay of psychology, design, and politics in experiments with urban open spaceMetropolisJohn Lindsay is not the most revered or famous mayor of New York City. His politics were fairly tepid and his background somewhat ordinary. But his attention to public spaces and diverse communities has left an unmissable mark on the city’s built forms and the ways its residents use, experience, and reshape the public realm.

The Invention of Public Space: Designing for Inclusion in Lindsay’s New York, a new book from architectural historian Mariana Mogilevich, argues this point of view in depth, highlighting the politics and negotiation inherent to this chapter of New York’s history. Mogilevich, who is the editor in chief of the Architectural League’s editorial imprint Urban Omnibus, shows how Lindsay’s mayorship came at a transitional moment in global design practice and theory, when considerations of psychology, identity, and community could no longer be ignored and increasingly informed the design of the public realm. Not unlike today, it was an era defined by profound demographic and cultural shifts, which in turn drove new uses and perceptions of urban space, and where optics, micro-politics, and “on the ground” realities were hardly beside the point.