Last week we had the pleasure of having Torange Khonsari of the London-based critical design studio Public Works, as guest professor of a workshop on Participatory Planning and Design, adding to our prestigious roster of visiting faculty.

Founded in 2004, Public Works “occupies the terrain in-between architecture, art, performance and activism, giving space to and facilitating civic practices which promote direct involvement and collective action in order to transform and re-appropriate contemporary public life.” Their projects, not limited to buildings or art objects, explore how users engage with public space, devising strategies that support social and cultural initatives in diverse contexts and employing playful methods to involve local users and residents.

The workshop focused on developing a practice model or an initiative within the discourse of ‘the commons’ and encouraged students to be creative and innovative in developing new forms of practice within the built environment that take into account the role of partnerships, collaboration and co-production with peers or supporting institutions.

Khonsari says their aim is “to give students the power to initiate their own commons projects and speculate on how to sustain them financially, to develop appropriate practice models based on the country and context they will be located, and to critically understand the role and position of their practice within the field of commons and as part of a larger global network.”

“The workshop with Khonsari has brought reflections around the challenge of incorporating citizen driven initiatives as motors for a more just city,” says our codirector Carmen Mendoza Arroyo. “Students  acquired an understanding of the commons and developed initiatives for civic engagement in diverse topics that they can apply to their individual research; ones that build on the notion of co-authorship as a method for collective action.”

Khonsari is leading a recently launched postgraduate program at London Metropolitan University titled Design for Cultural Commons MA – A postgraduate course for pioneers in the field of cultural and urban commons. Download the program flyer here.

In the videos below, watch Khonsari introduce Public Works and a recent keynote lecture of hers at City Link Festival 2017 Experimental Cities Conference.



Top photo: Our students with Torange Khonsari during a workshop on Participatory Planning and Design. Photo by Dario Guazzo.

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