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Designs on the Public

Designs on the Public: The Private Lives of New York’s Public Spaces

Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Designs on the Public
    Book Description:

    Kristine F. Miller delves into six of New York’s public spaces, including Times Square, Trump Tower, and Sony Plaza, to trace how design influences their complicated existence. Design is, in Miller’s view, complicit in regulation of public spaces in New York City to exclude undesirables and privilege commercial interests, and in this work she shows how design can reactivate public space and public life.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5376-8
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

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  1. Introduction What Is Public Space?
    (pp. ix-xxii)

    We tend to think of public space as having certain essential and obvious characteristics. We believe it is publicly owned, the opposite of private space. We believe it is open and accessible to everyone, where no one can be turned away. We imagine it as the setting for important civic events, where large groups of people come to celebrate, protest, and mourn. We see it as somehow part of democratic life—a place for speaking out and being heard.

    We also think we know New York City. It seems uniquely familiar to us, even to those of us who don’t...

  2. 1 Public Space as Public Sphere The Front Steps of New York’s City Hall
    (pp. 1-22)

    The front steps of New York’s City Hall appear as an ideal model of a public space: a public property where groups may gather to criticize decisions of elected officials in full view of others. If we imagine Nancy Fraser’s idea of the public sphere as the place where members of a public formulate and deliver messages regarding public issues to those officials who should be held accountable, then there can be no more important location for these activities in New York than City Hall’s front steps. The design of the steps of City Hall encourages a very particular kind...

  3. 2 Art or Lunch? Redesigning a Public for Federal Plaza
    (pp. 23-44)

    At City Hall, legal battles over freedom of speech and assembly showed that even places that seem intended to be locations for acts of protest can be controlled through regulation. Regulation changes the symbolic and real possibility of places even when the places themselves remain physically unaltered. Ties between the steps of City Hall and the activities of the public sphere were severed and then reestablished through ongoing processes of regulation, speech acts, and litigation. Throughout this process, the steps themselves never physically changed. The story of 26 Federal Plaza offers no such physical constant. The plaza was redesigned twice...

  4. 3 Condemning the Public in the New Times Square
    (pp. 45-70)

    The name “Times Square” refers both to a location within the city and to an icon. Stretching north to Fifty-third Street, south to Fortieth Street, east to Sixth Avenue, and west to Eighth Avenue, Times Square includes roughly twenty-five blocks of the borough of Manhattan.¹ Two of the most famous streets in the United States cross here: Broadway and Forty-second Street. Once known as the Great White Way, Broadway is home to American theater. Forty-second Street, once called the Dangerous Deuce, is infamous for its history as the city’s vice capital.² Each New Year’s Eve, most North American televisions are...

  5. 4 Bamboozled? Access, Ownership, and the IBM Atrium
    (pp. 71-92)

    The final three chapters examine three of New York’s nearly 530 POPS: the former IBM Atrium, Sony Plaza, and the public spaces of Trump Tower (Figure 4.1). POPS are developed under the Plaza Bonus Zoning Ordinance. First enacted in 1961, and revised in 1975 and 1999, the ordinance allows developers to construct additional building floors if they provide a POPS inside or next to their building. Each POPS is governed by an individual contract between the building owner and the city. The contracts state the size and attributes of the POPS and how many additional floors the owner is allowed...

  6. 5 Targeted Publics and Sony Plaza
    (pp. 93-116)

    Directly across the street from the former IBM building is one of the most recognizable skyscrapers in Manhattan, the former headquarters of AT&T. The tower’s stature (at 648 feet, more than 200 feet taller than IBM) and unique “broken pediment” style roof give it a distinctive and controversial presence.New York Timesarchitectural critic Paul Goldberger called the building “one of the most startling skyscrapers of the last generation,”¹ while others commented that its roof was “more appropriate for a piece of furniture.”² Love it or hate it, the tower remains unmistakable, even in midtown’s competitive skyline (Figure 5.1).


  7. 6 Trump Tower and the Aesthetics of Largesse
    (pp. 117-138)

    The reality TV showThe Apprenticebrought Donald Trump, and his hair, back into the American spotlight. During its first season in 2004 it was rated number one of new programs, with an average of 20.7 million viewers a week. The show’s format is simple: a group of aspirant moguls is divided into teams. Each team performs the same business assignment, such as selling lemonade on the streets of New York or dreaming up an ad campaign for a luxury airline. At the end of the day everyone returns to Trump Tower, where Trump and two of his corporate henchmen...

  8. Epilogue After 9/11
    (pp. 139-144)

    Public spaces are constantly changing. New regulations, changes in design, litigation outcomes, economic shifts, and new demands all affect the public nature of public space. Each of this book’s chapters described controversies that took place mainly in the 1980s and 1990s. If public space and the idea of public space are constantly in flux, do the ideas raised in these cases still hold true fifteen years later? Research and writing of this book took place between 1999 and 2005: the two years before and four years after the destruction of the World Trade Center towers. How does a book on...