Emerging Public Realm



Over the last two decades, public space renewal in downtown Detroit has undergone phases of experiments in response to emerging phenomena that put pressure on existing governance models. This includes most notably “metropolitanization,” referring to increasing geographical scales of interdependence in conjunction with the stalemate coming from partisan bickering and shrinking subsidies that negatively impact the provision of public services at local levels. New public space governance models based on partnerships have emerged in Detroit and elsewhere in response to the need to reimagine urban identities, which are critical in ensuring global competitiveness. The introduction of business improvement districts (BIDS) has been key in creating an armature for diversifying the principle urban actors and financing sources involved in public space renewal and creation. BIDs are therefore an interesting case study for investigating the potentials and limits of governance model shifts in the renewal of downtown public spaces.

This call for proposals is soliciting contributions from public space researchers, professionals and designers to participate in a one-day symposium that will take place in Detroit, Michigan on March 25, 2022. Through presentations and lightning talks the symposium will share knowledge and discuss best practices and innovative ideas for central public space governance, programming, and design within business improvement districts/zones/areas. Additionally, the symposium will help identify the historic influences which have shaped the current trend of public-private public realm development in the U.S. and elsewhere The gathering will create a space for exploring:

How have new governance models of public space shifted the development process and shaped the design and programming of public space?

How are public space development decisions made regarding programming and design?

What are best practices cities and organizations should adopt to ensure the continued fair
and just availability of public space to all?

Symposium Participation & Submission Requirements

Submission of ideas for the symposium is open and topics of special interest include three thematic areas related to public space development:

GOVERNANCE: The ways in which central urban spaces are governed and managed with BIDs.

DESIGN: The role of precedents, models or established design strategies in the design of public spaces and their adaptation to local contexts and cultures.

PROGRAMMING: The ways in which these central urban spaces are used and activated throughout the year.

Peer-reviewed submission areas include presentations and lightning talks. The presentations are geared toward sharing ideas and projects around the above themes and generating discussion. Each presentation is allowed 20 minutes. The lightning talks are intended to highlight one or more themes in the format of short, thought provoking, visual presentations. Each lightning talk presentation is allowed 20 slides/5 minutes and will be timed/advanced automatically.

Submissions, in English, should include an abstract (maximum 500 words) accompanied by a bibliography of five articles, books, or archival sources, as well as an author’s biography (maximum 100 words). Submissions should be submitted by October 13, 2021 before midnight EST in one of two ways:

  1. Submission form link below or
  2. Word or PDF file at reinventingpublicspace@gmail.com. Please submit all elements as a single Word or PDF file, labeled as follows: LAST NAME_resume.doc (or .pdf).

Call for proposals opens: August 30, 2021
Deadline for proposals: October 13, 2021
Announcement of decisions: November 15, 2021
Submission of presentations: March 18, 2022
Symposium: March 25, 2022

Steering Committee
Tadd Heidgerken, RA
Associate Professor, University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture and Community Development

Tricia Meehan, PhD.
Associate Professor, École nationale supérieure d’architecture de Normandie

Virginia Stanard
Associate Professor, University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture and Community Development

Peer Review Committee
Jay Cephas, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of the History and Theory of Architecture, Princeton University School of Architecture

Conrad Kickert, Ph.D
Assistant Professor, University of Buffalo

Barbara Knecht, RA
Principal, Strategies for Cities

Kenneth Krokoko, PLA
Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture, University of Arizona

Jerry Mitchell, Ph.D.
Professor, School of Public and International Affairs, The City University of New York