Benjamin R. Barber For The Nation
Luna Park sent me an article from The Nation about public space and the artist's role in its active creation. It is well worth a read, especially the first two paragraphs. It would seem Mr. Barber understands the role of participation in building and liberating our commons from the banal and creating a space active with the voices of our community.
The pedestrian piazzas being carved out from vehicular thruways at Times Square and Herald Square in New York City are testimony to the critical need for public space in our cluttered mega-cities. But public space is not merely the passive residue of a decision to ban cars or a tacit invitation to the public to step into the street. It must be actively created and self-consciously sustained against the grain of an architecture built as much for machines as people, more for commercial than common use.
In a word, public spaces are built, not natural; they are the result of constructive intervention rather than laissez-faire disinterest. There is an "art of public space," which requires more than no-car signs, traffic cones, concrete barriers, tables and chairs. Happily, New York possesses an urban resource ideally suited to creating public space: artists. Now that the Department of Transportation has temporarily liberated some space from automobiles--city officials will decide at the end of the year whether to extend the traffic ban--it needs to shape that space in ways that invoke democracy, attract usage and make it "public" in the deep sense of commonality, interactivity, connectivity and community. The idea of creative public space will...[MORE]