4.367/4.368 Studio Seminar in Public Art – Dialogues on Public Space: Issues of Spatial Cultural Identity

Antoni Muntadas

TA: Yesica Guera

Dialogues on Public Space:

Issues of Spatial Cultural Identity

The course Dialogues in Public Spaces will focus on the concept of the Spatial Cultural Identity as relevant to the design and intervention of art in urban public space. We will use this concept to address and negotiate the complexities of ideas, situations, objects and materials that are inherent to any public space.


Public Art is a concept that has been in discussion and revision for probably as long as the evolution of the terms ‘art’ and ‘city’ themselves. The public interventions that come out of this class are not to be created as an imposition but rather as temporary manifestations intended to activate a long-term discourse.

By considering art and architecture as public devices, this class explores new ways of understanding the concept of the ‘spatial cultural identity’ as relevant subject to contemporary critical discourses and practices on urban space. We will use this concept to address and negotiate the complexities of ideas, situations, objects and materials that are inherent to any public space. Questions and concerns of culture and identity within the cartography of a space will be central to our discussion. The dialogues that come out of this class are considered a point of departure for each student’s individual proposal, which is to be developed from an initial concept, to a publicly diffused project.


This studio seminar will look at ways in which the contemporary urban landscape is shaped and created by cultural identity conditions of space and time in relation to the multitude of behaviors and needs of inhabitants. How can we create public art projects that responsibly and proactively respond to these conditions? How do we create spaces for discourse and community rather than defensive, isolating and generic urban spaces?

This studio seminar will develop through a series of readings, discussions and presentations where student projects will consider the following:

1. A context for doing research, for processing information, and for criticism.

2. Ideas and proposals that are site specific, time specific and context specific.

3. The socio-political significance of the placement and imposition of symbols in the public arena.

4. References of other artists and architects to help create projects and discuss these forms.

5. Dialogue and collaboration within and outside of the realm of the class.


A significant part of the course will be dedicated to exploring [recent and existing] examples of public art projects specific to communities around the Boston area. We will take the city as a ground that offers constructive and dynamic juxtapositions in the subject of cultural identity as well as a place that holds complex layering and overlapping issues, where opportunities for negotiation, protest and critical ideas could emerge.

The relevancy to analyze the city is to gain a perspective on the critical projects for public spaces. After carefully considering space and cultural identity and its differences within the city region, we will examine the [controlling] factors in the cityscape, which are predetermining as to how public and common spaces are used. Aesthetic, social and political issues in the urban setting are to be analyzed vis-à-vis enforced public policy. Traditional form of commemoration will be examined in comparison to more temporal and critical form of public art and action.


Explorations throughout the city will be an integral and necessary component for the students to concretely understand the realities behind the course’s theme of spatial cultural identity as relevant to the design and intervention of public space.

A vital part of the course will focus on the exploration of examples of public art projects in urban and architectural sites. The point of departure for the projects will be urban analysis through specific works and critical texts. By visiting different places around Boston students will gain an important firsthand understanding of spaces of cultural separation, transformation and ambiguous identity. The final projects aim to significantly impact these public spaces through the physical urban manifestation translated into the lived experience of everyday life.


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Davis, Mike. Planet of Slums. London: Verso, 2006.

Finkelpearl, Tom. Dialogues in Public Art. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2000

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Hein, Hilde. Public art : thinking museums differently. Lanham, MD : AltaMira Press, c2006.

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Yumiko Mochizuki … [et al.]]. Public art : a world’s eye view : Integrating Art into Environment Japan : ICO, 2007.

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