S O C I A L L I F E O F P U B L I C S P A C E S
Instructor: Bjørn Sletto
Office: Sutton Hall 3.124B
Urban planners, architects and designers are often asked to intervene in public spaces that are complex, contested, and poorly understood. The materiality of public spaces—buildings, park benches, bus stops, trails, sculptures, and so on—shape and are shaped by cultural, political, economic, and social processes and structures, including relations of power shaped by class, ethnicity, and race. This means that public space is not just a material phenomenon but also a social space that changes over time. The goal of this course is to provide planners with the theoretical and conceptual tools to understand the complex interactions between the political, social, and material dimensions of public spaces in order to prepare them for working in complex, multi-cultural, and contested urban environments. The course is structured in a seminar format and students will explore critical texts from a variety of fields, including planning, architecture, urban geography, urban anthropology, and social theory. We will combine lectures and class discussions with several field trips to observe and document public spaces in downtown Austin. We will also meet with community partners who in different ways engage with the problematic of public space in Austin. In addition to field trips, course requirements include reflection papers where students are expected to engage with the readings, presentations of students’ individual research topic, and a final research paper. The course is currently restricted to graduate students in Community and Regional Planning but also open to graduate students in all other fields. Students from other departments should contact instructor directly for permission to enroll: Bjorn Sletto, firstname.lastname@example.org.