Our Public Space: Who Owns It, Who Shapes It, and Who Benefits From It

  • Sketching the future
  • Chicago
  • Sat, June 14 —
    Sun, June 15, 2014
Our Public Space: Who Owns It, Who Shapes It, and Who Benefits From It

A two-day program of lectures and a workshop presented by national and international architects, designers, and artists addressing the current state of public space and the built environment.

The program series delves into the themes explored in the exhibition John Preus: The Beast in the Hyde Park Art Center’s main gallery (April 13, 2014 – August 3, 2014).

The conference activates a two-story hollow sculpture in the form of a dying bull into a town hall that encourages discussion and learning about the history, alternative use, and social value of built space. The installation considers the psychological and social impacts of individual and collective trauma, as manifested in architectural form.

The conference consists of three presentations (day 1), and an intensive workshop (day 2) focusing on public space, who controls it, who has access to it, and how its governance shapes the socio-economic environment that we inhabit. The series aims to complement current discourses about urban architecture and explore alternative approaches for creating spaces that promote public agency.

The following questions will be considered:

  • How does architecture obscure or reveal the history and conditions of its existence?
  • What are the labor conditions that brought it into being?
  • How does architecture challenge or reinforce forms of social injustice?
  • How is the built environment shaped by questions of liability, zoning, and legal protections and what is the social cost?
  • What would an embrace of vulnerability and uncertainty look like architecturally?
  • What is public space, where is it, who controls it, and why does it matter?

Our Public Space features an exciting international panel of speakers whose work can help us frame and explore these questions. Their insight and experience in different contexts will help us to better understand the politics of architecture, the cost of safety, and new ways to engage with, reclaim, and theorize the public sphere within a highly controlled urban framework.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Beast, Hyde Park Art Center (5020 S Cornell Ave, Chicago, IL 60615), from 1 pm to 5 pm.

The first day will feature three lectures that will tackle ownership and intervention in our public space. Presentations will be delivered by Patrizia di Monte, Quilian Riano, and Mimi Zeiger whose diverse backgrounds, approaches, and areas of intervention will provide an insightful look at what shapes our public space. Each panelist will give a 45-minute presentation related to their work (see following pages for specific information) followed by a 15-minute Q&A led by Iker Gil with the audience and the rest of the panelists. The presentations will use visual aides to convey the ideas and practical solutions described.

  • 1 pm: Introduction
  • 1:15 pm: Quilian Riano | #whOWNSpace. #whOWNSpace arises from the questions that the Occupy Wall Street movement has brought up about ownership and use of open space around the world.
  • 2:30 pm: Mimi Zeiger | The Intermediate. The lecture will explore “the intermediate” phase as a production of public space, participatory dialogue, and urban development that can guide social and political outcomes.
  • 3:45 pm: Patrizia di Monte | Estonoesunsolar. The richness of possibilities to use the empty plots stems from the indeterminacy of such gaps in the regular urban fabric. Temporary interventions in the city space are a dynamic tool that allow for flexible alternative readings of the city. The project as a whole aims for non-material solutions, establishing an open dialogue with the constructed environment through a light-hearted attitude. From the outset, it was essential to find a name for the interventions that gave meaning to a program without a program, an owner without property, and urban plot without a building, a place with no name. The name “estonoesunsolar” was intended to propose a new way of seeing familiar places: this is not an empty place – this is not what it seems. In short, it is an invitation to think again, to imagine possibilities, to propose new situations, and create enthusiastic spaces.
  • 4:45 pm: Closing remarks

Sunday, June 15

Lathrop Homes (2000 W Diversey Ave, Chicago, IL 60647)10 am – 4 pm.

A six-hour workshop led by Quilian Riano and John Preus that engages with a specific Chicago site to apply ideas generated out of the presentations made the day prior. Mr. Riano brings his experience with Corona Plaza in Queens, New York, and his work with the Occupy Wall Street to bear on questions about public and private space, and forms of grassroots engagement. This is an excellent opportunity to work directly with a specific community and start a conversation in a real site facing real challenges.

  • 10 am – 12 pm: Workshop led by Quilian Riano and John Preus.
  • 12 pm – 1pm: Lunch break.
  • 1 pm – 4 pm: Workshop continues on site.

About Patrizia di Monte

She is an architect, founder of gravalosdimonte arquitectos, and mastermind behind Estonoesunsolar, an artist/architect collective focused on the cleaning, rehabilitation, and maintenance of brownfield plots within the city of Zaragoza, Spain to create open spaces for the community.


Venue map

Various venues in Chicago


Free and open to the public.

More information

Mas Context


This program is organized by Dilettante Studios, MAS Context, and the Hyde Park Art Center.



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