Symposium highlights public spaces’ importance

Chad Hamblin

Stephanie Valenta, a landscape architecture graduate student, said that when most people think of architecture at the University, they focus on buildings and not the “in-between spaces.”

“They’re just kind of there,” she said. “But they can really build a community.”

This weekend, the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture hosted “Public Space, Public Good?” The event featured nine speakers who, as Valenta, care about those spaces such as patios, alleys and parks.

University architecture professor Kristine Miller organized the event, which was held Friday and Saturday at Rapson Hall.

The speakers touched on topics such as how restructuring roadways can revitalize a community and a New York law that gives corporations incentive to have public spaces in their buildings.

Miller said public spaces serve an important role in building communities. In public spaces, she said, people can relax, socialize, protest and commute, as roads are also public.

“How these spaces are designed and managed really shapes what kinds of public life can happen there,” she said. “They are so important, because they are the one place that everyone is guaranteed access.”

Miller said architects have a responsibility to design public spaces so they are accessible to everyone, even if the space is intended for a particular group.

Anna Claussen, a first-year landscape architecture graduate student attending the event, said she saw in Europe how public spaces can promote community. While she was in Europe, she said, people often congregated in public areas because not many had back yards.

They had a stronger sense of community, she said.

“I’m really interested in the spaces we create, and how they either divide us or unite us,” Claussen said.

Jeff Lawler, a first-year landscape architecture graduate student, said he has studied theory, but the conference is the first time he’s been able to see it in practice.

“I learned quite a bit,” he said.

Chelsa Johnson and Laura Reuter, second-year landscape architecture graduate students, said they came to the event for “inspiration.”

“I think that’s why a lot of us are here,” Johnson said. “There’s new fresh ideas you didn’t consider before.”