Public Space- Public Sphere | Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem

Public Space- Public Sphere

Total Hours
Semester B
Course Day
Time 12:30 - 14:00

This course is concerned with the collective nature and political potential of urban public spaces. It sees public space as an arena for social and political contest and struggle, whose form and function are determined, at one side, by the authority of political, economic, religious and cultural forces, and by an expression of social desire at the other.


The course examines how public space functions in real and in theory in support of democratic life, and its status as a basic asset through which, in principle but not necessarily in practice, resources such as freedom, privilege, equality and justice are made possible. The course examines how space can be a facilitator of civic order, a site of resistance, association and exercise of power, and a stage for creativity and performance. The course brings together separate models for critical analysis of public space with 'classic' and contemporary readings in order to illustrate the theoretical foundations of public space, enable discussion about issues of capital, resource allocation, accessibility and availability, and offer ways to address public policy issues and public space management. Particular emphasis will be given to a discussion of the private and public distinction - the ‘grand dichotomy’. Additional emphasis will be given to current events: to the identification and interpretation of present circumstances where public space is an influential component.


The course is divided chronologically between three parts. The first offers critical overview of key concepts of public space as they were introduced at the ancient and the modern city, the second deals with the changing notions of the realm at the contemporary city, while the third proposes a speculative prediction of public space in the near future. We will focus on the spaces of the modern and the contemporary man, on the street corner and the factory’s canteen, the infrastructure and the battlefield, the island and the forest, above and below ground level, as well as on the representation and the work of art. The course spans over fourteen classroom sessions. We will devote them to lectures and class discussions of assigned readings, practice critical thinking and develop analysis skills of public space related topics. We will begin with a lecture titled “Epidemic Public Space”, and end with a lecture about “Seconds and Centimeters - The Workings of Radical Measurements”. Course participants will be asked to reflect on what they have learned by writing two interpretive papers about contemporary public space, amounting to approximately 1,500 words each.