Publics & Their Problems

Publics & Their Problems

1-09

In conjunction with Professor Saskia Sassen’s lecture at the Yale School of Architecture, this issue of Paprika takes a close look at the roles played by art and architecture in the evolution, definition, construction, and occupation of spaces, places, and groups considered to be “public.” In light of what Jonathan Crary has described as the “widespread depreciation and disparagement of the ‘brick and mortar’ world” — and of Sassen’s own recent work in Expulsions on the various “socioeconomic and environmental dislocations” characterizing the contemporary geopolitical landscape — the concepts of physical territory and built form achieve new prominence as essential to the reclamation and reconstruction of a truly public realm. Recent advances in digital networking technology and social media have granted us unprecedented capacity for communication and connection, but despite our access to such tools, the new types of association they provide remain remote and indirect. This condition is neither inevitable, nor necessary. As artists and architects — as people invested, both personally and professionally, in the betterment and sustenance of the built environment, of the city, the neighborhood, and the community — should we not take stock of our work’s potential to help bring publics into being? As builders, is it not our role to make visible, and thereby to empower, otherwise illegible public formations?