Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

June 14, 2014

Our Public Space

Who Owns It, Who Shapes It, and Who Benefits From It


Architecture, Events, Iker Gil, John Preus, Patrizia di Monte, Quilian Riano, Urbanism

Our Public Space is a two-day program of lectures and a workshop presented by a concise list of national and international architects, designers, and artists addressing the current state of public space and the built environment. This program is organized by Dilettante Studios, MAS Context, and the Hyde Park Art Center and will take place on June 14 and June 15, 2014. With Iker Gil, John Prius, Quilian Riano, Patrizia di Monte, and Mimi Zeiger.

The program series delves into the themes explored in the exhibition John Preus: The Beast in the Hyde Park Art Center’s main gallery (April 13, 2014 – August 3, 2014). The conference activates a two-story hollow sculpture in the form of a dying bull into a town hall that encourages discussion and learning about the history, alternative use, and social value of built space. The installation considers the psychological and social impacts of individual and collective trauma, as manifested in architectural form.

The conference consists of three presentations (day 1) and an intensive workshop (day 2) focusing on public space, who controls it, who has access to it, and how its governance shapes the socio-economic environment that we inhabit. The series aims to complement current discourses about urban architecture and explore alternative approaches for creating spaces that promote public agency.

The following questions will be considered:

– How does architecture obscure or reveal the history and conditions of its existence?
– What are the labor conditions that brought it into being?
– How does architecture challenge or reinforce forms of social injustice?
– How is the built environment shaped by questions of liability, zoning, and legal protections and what is the social cost?
– What would an embrace of vulnerability and uncertainty look like architecturally?
– What is public space, where is it, who controls it, and why does it matter?

Our Public Space features an exciting international panel of speakers whose work can help us frame and explore these questions. Their insight and experience in different contexts will help us to better understand the politics of architecture, the cost of safety, and new ways to engage with, reclaim, and theorize the public sphere within a highly controlled urban framework.

Program Schedule

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Beast, Hyde Park Art Center (5020 S Cornell Ave, Chicago, IL 60615)
1 pm – 5 pm

The first day will feature three lectures that will tackle ownership and intervention in our public space. Presentations will be delivered by Patrizia di Monte, Quilian Riano, and Mimi Zeiger whose diverse backgrounds, approaches, and areas of intervention will provide an insightful look at what shapes our public space. Each panelist will give a 45-minute presentation related to their work (see following pages for specific information) followed by a 15-minute Q&A led by Iker Gil with the audience and the rest of the panelists. The presentations will use visual aides to convey the ideas and practical solutions described.

1 pm: Introduction

1:15 pm: Quilian Riano | #whOWNSpace

#whOWNSpace arises from the questions that the Occupy Wall Street movement has brought up about ownership and use of open space around the world. On September 17th, 2011 Occupy Wall Street shed new light to the privatization of the city when a group of activists occupied Zuccotti Park, a Privately Owned Public Space (POPS) in New York City’s Financial District. POPS legislation was developed in 1961 as a way to let developers negotiate building variances, often increasing the square footage of rentable space in return for plaza and parks that should be open and welcoming to the public for multiple uses. The legislation has led to private entities building 3.5 million square feet of areas that they control but are, in theory, public. #whOWNSpace, along with collaborators, seeks to reveal conflict, question rules, advocate for design, and finally intervene in public space.

2:30 pm: Mimi Zeiger | The Intermediate

“The Intermediate” is the space between top-down planning and bottom-up action. It is a productive area of contemplation and investigation that leads to multiple outcomes, paradoxically serving a broad public and creating a narrow scope of participation. The lecture will explore “the intermediate” phase as a production of public space, participatory dialogue, and urban development that can guide social and political outcomes. However, in order to predict outcomes, Zeiger proposes we need a critical appraisal of the very notion of tactical, DIY, bottom-up urbanisms, and a new understanding of the pressures placed on this nascent field, including the pitfalls and possibilities of urban intervention.

3:45 pm: Patrizia di Monte | Estonoesunsolar

The richness of possibilities to use the empty plots stems from the indeterminacy of such gaps in the regular urban fabric. Temporary interventions in the city space are a dynamic tool that allow for flexible alternative readings of the city. The project as a whole aims for non-material solutions, establishing an open dialogue with the constructed environment through a light-hearted attitude. From the outset, it was essential to find a name for the interventions that gave meaning to a program without a program, an owner without property, and urban plot without a building, a place with no name. The name “estonoesunsolar” was intended to propose a new way of seeing familiar places: this is not an empty place – this is not what it seems. In short, it is an invitation to think again, to imagine possibilities, to propose new situations, and create enthusiastic spaces.

4:45 pm: Closing remarks

Sunday, June 15

Lathrop Homes (2000 W Diversey Ave, Chicago, IL 60647)
10 am – 4 pm

A six-hour workshop led by Quilian Riano and John Preus that engages with a specific Chicago site to apply ideas generated out of the presentations made the day prior. Mr. Riano brings his experience with Corona Plaza in Queens, New York, and his work with the Occupy Wall Street to bear on questions about public and private space, and forms of grassroots engagement. This is an excellent opportunity to work directly with a specific community and start a conversation in a real site facing real challenges.

10 am – 12 pm:    Workshop led by Quilian Riano and John Preus.
12 pm – 1pm: Lunch break
1 pm – 4 pm: Continue workshop on site


Patrizia di Monte is an architect, founder of gravalosdimonte arquitectos, and mastermind behind Estonoesunsolar, an artistic/architectural program focused on the transformation of brownfield plots, within the city of Zaragoza, Spain to create open spaces for the community in the crisis meanwhile. She is Social Architecture professor at ETSA-USJ.
www.gravalosdimonte.com | @patriziadimonte

Iker Gil is an architect, urban designer, and director of MAS Studio. He is the founder and editor in chief of the design journal MAS Context and the co-director of the Chicago Expander program at Archeworks. He is a PhD candidate from Escola Tecnica Superior d’Arquitectura de Barcelona (ETSAB), and holds a Master of Architecture from University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).
www.mas-studio.com | @MASContext

John Preus is a Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist. He holds an MFA from the University of Chicago (2005) and studied furniture making in Minnesota with John Nesset. Preus founded Dilettante Studios in 2010, co-founded SHoP (2011), and Material Exchange (2005). Preus was the creative director of the Rebuild Foundation shop until 2012 and project lead for Theaster Gates’ 12 Ballads for Huguenot House, at Documenta 13. Preus is currently a Jackman Goldwasser resident at Hyde Park Art Center.

Quilian Riano is a designer, researcher, writer, and educator currently working out of Brooklyn, New York. Quilian works with community groups and trans-disciplinary teams to create comprehensive research that can be used to propose a variety of targeted policies, actions and designs at various scales—from pamphlets to architectures to landscapes. He leads #whOWnSpace, a project that grew out of the questions that surfaced during the #occupywallstreet movement concerning ownership and use of open space in New York City, North America, and cities around the world.
www.dsgnagnc.com/quilian-bio | @quilian

Mimi Zeiger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and critic. She covers art, architecture, urbanism, and design for a number of publications, including The New York Times, Domus, Dwell, and Architect, where she is a contributing editor. Zeiger is author of New Museums, Tiny Houses and Micro Green: Tiny Houses in Nature.
www.mimizeiger.com | @loudpaper

Organized by
Dilettante Studios
MAS Context
Hyde Park Art Center

Supported by
Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts
The Illinois Humanities Council
National Endowment for the Humanities
Illinois General Assembly