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Privately Owned Public Spaces + Spatial Agency

New York City, 2017
Current MArch (Prof) thesis
This thesis aims to investigate, through design, spatial agency within the realm of New York’s Privately Owned Public Spaces. Within the POPS sites, tension is current between the ideals of public space - completely open, accessible - and the limitations imposed by who creates and controls it. Created between the 1960’s and today, these urban plazas offer a series of case studies in which to examine agency, exploring how social space is also political space, charged with the dynamics of power/ empowerment, interaction/ isolation, control/ freedom. This thesis proposes to use the scale of human agency as a design tool: To modify the structure of the city and its social life, and in this way to challenge the very notion of the public in public space.

The iterations are intended to reveal tensions present in Privately Owned Public Spaces; between the needs of private builders and the characteristics of true public spaces. This was achieved by using design as a commentary to reveal the design aspects complicit as a mechanism of control. The series expressed and challenged the very notion of the public in public space, and further revealed the tension between public use and private ownership/control.


With regards to the traditional notion of the city, New York City has been replaced, by a more polycentric and weblike sprawl: the regional metropolis, where the infrastructure and flows of material have become more significant than the static political and spatial boundaries.

The final design will propose a series of social infrastructure design iterations along the Sixth Avenue public spaces. At an urban and architectural scale, the site driven research will fully investigate possibilities for creating intensified, integrated public space along the network of urban POPS in the site zone.

 The initial design concept creates an urban park at the Sixth Avenue site. The proposal is  a flexible space to allow for greater human agency, giving opportunities for multi user programme while aiming to give the public a truly public space.

Final Design November 2017