Australasian Student Competition: This Public Space

The Festival Creative Directors and AILA have launched This Public Space (TPS) - a competition which calls on students across Australia and New Zealand to work in teams to develop innovative design and programming strategies that make public spaces more inclusive. 

Drawing on Van Alen Institute’s multi-year exploration of the theme Elsewhere: Escape and the Urban Landscape and its recent series of public programs about ‘hangouts’ in New York City, TPS asks participants to consider: why do we seek escape from the city, and what forms of escape can we find within the urban environment?

Hangouts – cities wouldn’t be cities without them. These informal spaces provide an escape from the tensions of congested urban life; they serve as venues for people to congregate and catch up, swap gossip, play games, organize meetings, share meals, fill time, and so on. For some, hangouts serve as places to unwind and relax, while for others they can be a refuge when there is nowhere else to go.

When it comes to public space, ‘hanging out’ gets political - the form of these urban landscapes often dictates who can use the space and how. Discouraging homeless people from getting too comfortable by installing benches that are impossible to sleep on, breaking up smooth surfaces to keep skateboarders away, neglecting to add access points for the elderly to sidewalks, parks, and plazas - whether intentional or not, the design of many public spaces results in the automatic exclusion of particular groups.

TPS invites participants to propose strategies for making public spaces more inclusive and conducive to bringing together diverse groups of users. Students will identify a public space in an Australian or New Zealand town or city that they feel could be made more inclusive, define the relevant problems and questions, and devise detailed strategies for how to realize this goal through design intervention or public programming. These strategies can range from design interventions to temporary installations or programming strategies, but the end result should be cross-disciplinary where possible.

Three shortlisted teams will be invited to present their work at a panel at This Public Life: Festival of Landscape Architecture in Melbourne in October 2015. The Festival will award a total prize to the value of $3,000 to either one winning team, or to be split amongst the finalists.

Read more about This Public Space and download the brief.