In a thriving democracy, the need for protest shapes our public realm and vice versa. The design of our public realm informs the way we collectively bear witness to conflict and make our voices heard. The design of our streets, in particular, needs to accommodate a huge range of uses—from the activities of our most pedestrian of days to the influx of millions during extraordinary times. Many designers are asking these questions of each other, reiterating the potential impact design can have on our collective experience of public space during protest events.
Interested in these notions, Gina Ford reached out to a number of designers (landscape architects, urban designers and planners) who participated in one of the many nation-wide marches on January 21, 2016, and asked them about their experience. This included designers that marched in Austin, Boston, Oakland, Houston, Washington DC, New York City, Denver, and Chicago. She asked: How did the design of the street enable or hinder the experience of the march? What was surprising about the way the street or public spaces performed during the marches? Did your experience change the way you think about the design of city streets? The results were summarized in an article in ArchDaily called “8 Ways We Can Improve Our Streets for Protest.”
Following on this, Gina elaborated on the role of public space and protest in cultivating community, designing for exchange and connecting people at her TEDxBeaconStreet talk. Filmed in November of 2017 and dubbed “Spaces for Protest, Places for Peace”, the talk took place in the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston.