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Public Works

Public Works is a London-based critical design not profit set up in 2004 that occupies the terrain in-between architecture, art, performance and activism. It delves deep into the challenges posed by contemporary urbanism to seek new ways for communities to reassert control over their own futures.

Depending on what is appropriate for the project, Public Works designs across medium and scale, from research to urban planning to furniture and participatory art, with the unified goal of stimulating new thought about how public space can be claimed.

Public Works’ programmatic direction comes from a belief that public space is a powerful convener and the way that it is organized can create new, more productive forms of social interaction.  For example, the Granville Cube project began as a piece of “street furniture;” a simple metal frame structure that travelled to various locations around the Granville New Homes site in the South Kilburn neighborhood of London. Modest in its construction, the structure stimulated community connections and served as a place for small scale local events. Public Works organized weekly events that involved local residents, ranging from caroling, flower planting, creating fish tanks and other esoteric functions. The Cube, while small in scale, shows how designers’ simple interventions can often catalyze entirely new forms of community interaction.

Public Works also launched “The Public(s) Land Grab,” a live research project seeking alternatives to capital-led urban development and its intrinsic inequalities. Increasingly, cities and citizens rely on developers to fashion their environments. This project investigates whether residents can build the capacity to develop without developers. Can they use regeneration as an opportunity to level social inequalities and address local issues such as unemployment and community well-being? The initiative began with a community garden in a vacant lot and then used a building workshop, legislation and negotiation with the city council to build local agency. The research will culminate in a handbook of citizen strategies that can be used as a counter to capitalistic development.