Think Public Space
Work title: Urban Terrain
Too often nowadays are public spaces used only as spaces of transition – a mere backdrop to decorate one''s journey through the modern city. Rarely is public space the destination; a space that one stops to enjoy, to inhabit. Part of the reason behind this could be the sense of impersonality that is fostered in the contemporary urban space, whose buildings often rise tall and faceless.
To negate such an atmosphere, and allow the public to sympathise with the city, they must be allowed to realise that the public spaces are something that belongs to them as a collective. This could be achieved through the ability to modify and re-arrange spaces within the public realm, allowing a degree of personalisation that creates a relationship between the public and the spaces that they occupy. The end result would create public spaces where people feel more comfortable, more at home.
To work towards this concept of personalisation, I am putting forward a typology of urban intervention that is highly configurable by the public, and suitable for many different forms of urban space. This ''urban terrain'' consists of a regular grid of timber tiles that can be arranged into any number of different formations desired by the user. The relatively lightweight tiles fit into each other to form fixed stacks, so members of the public can lift them from one place to another to create places for them to sit, recline, and stand.
In doing so, the public would become the catalyst in a dynamically changing urban landscape, as the arrangement of the space would change from day to day, and even hour to hour. It would almost seem to become something as alive and organic as the people who inhabit and pass through it.
The installation would facilitate many types of interaction between people, and interaction with the city at large. Certain arrangements would enable it to be utilised as a platform for debate and public speaking, even protest. Others might render it a social space, with groups relaxing and chatting amongst themselves. In the presence of various forms of retail establishments, it would provide seating to sit and enjoy the food and drink purchased in the shops. At a larger scale, the space could be organised to facilitate public events, such as speeches or performances, providing both a stage and seating for the spectators.
Its uses would not be restricted solely to city squares – the concept could be just as effective in other types of spaces. Perhaps it occupies a park that plays host to markets on certain days of the week, with people crossing it to go from stall to stall and stopping there to enjoy the food. It could also occupy the space on the bank of a river, to bridge the space between the buildings and the water, and create a more active public space along the riverside.
All of these uses would be possible because of the ease with which the concept can be adapted. The only restriction is that the fixed base layer is based on a 500mm x 500mm module, which is the dimension of each tile. As long as it follows this module, it can be adapted to almost any shape to occupy spaces of most shapes and sizes.
The tiles themselves are simple to construct out of timber, and because they are designed to stack in sturdy piles, they would be easy to transport from location to location, making the replacement of missing tiles or the addition of extra tiles an easy task. Replacement tiles could even be constructed from a different sort of timber, so that the space changes and becomes more unique as time wears on.