Deadline 15 May 2014

Designing for free speech challenge | Deadline 15 May 2014

Free speech is essential for a vibrant culture and a democratic society, yet spaces for public expression seem harder and harder to find in the places where we live, work and play.

What does a space for free speech look and feel and sound like? Can they be designed? Are there places in New York City where we can design them?

Theatrum Mundi, in partnership with the American Institute of Architects, New York, has launched a “Designing for Free Speech” challenge. The challenge asks architects, designers, activists, artists — and anyone interested in imagining new spaces in the city for free expression — to identify public spaces in New York City and propose re-designs that transform them into places that activate the rights enshrined in the First Amendment. 

Applicants will propose architectural or performative designs (temporary or permanent) that transform spaces in New York City into places for public “demonstration.” This challenge is about re-imagining and idealizing existing spaces that have the potential for animating the public, especially spaces that are not traditionally considered in this frame.

“New York City has a rich history of creative and political expression,” says Stephen Duncombe, project director and Theatrum Mundi fellow, “but with the privatization of public space, the surveillance of political communications, the commercialization of creative expression, and the virtualization of social gatherings, we want to imagine how we can transform spaces in the city into places for free expression. The Designing for Free Speech challenge offers a forum to do this.”

This open call is free to enter for any interested, interdisciplinary teams at and consists of three parts:

1. Identification a public space in New York City that could benefit from a more active and interactive social or political engagement.

2. Design plans for a physical transformation of, or performative intervention within, this space.

3. Description of how the proposed plan would be implemented.

A jury will select eight featured proposals to be exhibited and be awarded a small sum toward their implementation. The public will select two additional featured proposals via an online voting system.