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Reinhabiting the Void: Designing Public Spaces for Everyday Life
May 9-10, 1996, Chicago, Illinois

Vital urban public space has long been necessary if not central to the everyday life of a great city. Declining support for publicly owned and managed everyday public space has led to lack of maintenance, poor security, and deterioration of some of these places. At the same time, many of the most heavily used public spaces today are owned and managed privately. The City Design Center conference, “Reinhabiting the Void: Designing Public Spaces for Everyday Life,” brought together designers, scholars, and the concerned public to reconsider the design of urban public space.
Featured speakers included architect, author, and former architecture critic for the Village Voice, Michael Sorkin, and Professor Robert Bruegmann of the UIC Art History Department. In addition, three panels composed of Chicago area designers, community group leaders, and public officials involved in the creation of innovative public spaces offered participants the opportunity to discuss issues of public space and public life in more detail. The first panel, Reinventing the Center, looked at communities which have consciously sought to create new, core public spaces. The second panel, Claiming Common Spaces, examined projects such as the Illinois Prairie Path and the City of Chicago’s CitySpace program which seek to create public spaces from unused or lost places such as abandoned rail lines and vacant lots. The third panel, Invigorating the Ordinary, discussed ways design could be used to add vitality to otherwise mundane environments.

City Design Center Affiliated Faculty Organizers

Roberta Feldman, Professor, School of Architecture, and Director, City Design Center
Robert Bruegmann, Professor, Art History Department
George Hemmens, Professor, Urban Planning Program, and Co-Director, City Design Center

Funding and Co-Sponsorship

Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs
Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts
UIC Great Cities Initiative
UIC School of Architecture
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