Democracy and Public Space

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Architectural Thesis on negotiating state and public space

Text of Democracy and Public Space


DEMOCRACY AND PUBLIC SPACEARCHITECTURE THAT TRANSCENDS DIFFERENCEAbstract This Thesis hopes to study the possibilities of translating the ideologies of democracy into spatial form. Simultaneously breaking away from traditional images of power. It also hopes to explore the idea of translating digital space into the physical space. To achieve this I will be developing a programme that will aproppriate these characteristics.

There is no single theory of democracy; only theories"


Robert Dahl


Intoduction Methodology/ Objectives Theoretical Framework Case Studies Site Selection Site Analysis Programme Development Design Process

introductionArchitecture today has to deal with contemporary issues like democracy and secularism. How does the an architect respond to these condition? Does it merely imply freedom to anything and everything or is there more to democracy. This thesis proposes to investigate the possibilities of democracy in public space and contemporary architecture. Most people understand the concept of a democratic public space as a space of protest. But architecture and democracy go beyond protest. It represents the identity and the aspirations of the people, such that its transcends the diversity of a billion. This thesis proposes to explore a similar such representation of our physical environment keeping in consideration values of culture and secularism. The creation of an architecture of India presents the challenge of representing a contemporary institution within the rich contextual history that is India. The complexity of a city increase directly proportional to the number of components in a city. Delhi is one such city. It has a rich history and the centre for politics in India. We inherited an architecture from a colonial past whose civic structures are rendered in an almost authoritarian style with large landscaping, high walls, low ground coverage and FAR. Most of these colonial buildings still continue to be the symbol of Indian Democracy. Many government buildings are hidden away behind boundary walls Is it possible to architecturally represent Democracy? To begin, it is to establish what democracy is to architecture. Democracy in space is most commonly described as a space of protest. A space where the masses come together to debate issues pertinent to the country and the people. A space to question the ways of the government and make their voices heard. Such symbols of democracy can be seen in Delhis Jantar Mantar, India Gate and the Ramlila Maidan. Another way to represent the ideals of Democracy, particularly by architects have been to symbolically translate these concepts into physical manifestations. Like the Seagram Building by Mies van der Rohe which has been described to be, embodies the progressive values and industrial power of a triumphant America... streamlined glass-and-steel forms proclaimed a faith in machine-age efficiency and an open, honest, democratic society....1 Of course translating the idea of transparency into a glass faade might be too literal, it is important to acknowledge the stand taken by the architect. Democracy can also translate to access of space. How an architect designs to accommodate the public can also be seen as a reflection of appropriating design for a democratic country.

1 Nicolai Ouroussoff, Pride and Nostalgia Mix in The Timess New Home The New York Times, [online article] (2007) < http://www. >

National Museum,New DelhiImage Source: Author (2012), New Delhi

NDMC Building: A Civic CentreImage Source: Author (2012), New

Protests at India GateImage Source:

Seagram Building by Mies

Image Source: Carter Hosley, Plazas and Privately Owned Public Space, The City Review, [Online webpage] < html>


issuesCan all Architecture be all inclusive? The idea of building a wall immediately establishes difference. So can all buildings be democratic? What does democracy mean to architecture? Is it a symbolic gesture or perhaps freedom of public movement? Or could it mean establishing a new order to reinforce democracy(this implies inventing a brief, client and function from scratch)? How can the ideologies of democracy be translated to the physical built environment?

A brief introduction the ideologies of democracy...Modern democracy originates from the ideas of Classical Greece. Its citizens had sufficiently harmonius interest and the idea of general good did not contradict their personal aims. However the privelege of citizenship was limited and overall the system only maintained true at a small scale. The Modern Representative Government - for the large state Republic. Human beings live together in political association. All citizens must be equal before the law and must participate in the ruling. A mixed government of democracy to balance the views of many.

DEMOCRACY AND THE MAJORITYDemocracy is supposed to be the rule of the majority. Government of the majority of the people, for the majority of the people, by the majority of the people. The Democracy Boundary Problem questions the peoples capabilities as political agents, their political competence. In order to effectively further ones interest through democratic processes one must arguably possess a certain degree of knowledge and rationality.

CRITERIA FOR A 1. Effective participation - throughout the process of making binding collective decisions, citizens ought to have an adequate opportunity, and an equal opportunity, for expressing their preferences as to the final outcome, debating an agenda, and expressing reasons for endorsing one outcome rather than another; 2. Voting equality - at the decisive stage of collective decisions, each citizen must be ensured an equal opportunity to express a choice that will be counted as equal in weight to the choice of any other citizen, and it is only these choice that must be taken into account; All citizens should have the equal choice and oppurtunity to express the views, preferences or reasoning on any subject in a all-




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While no consensus exists on how to define democracy, equality and freedom have both been identified as important characteristics of democracy since ancient times.] These principles are reflected in all eligible citizens being equal before the law and having equal access to legislative processes. For example, in a representative democracy, every vote has equal weight, no unreasonable restrictions can apply to anyone seeking to become a representative, and the freedom of its eligible citizens is secured by legitimized rights and liberties which are generally protected by a constitution.Image Source:


inviting space not constricted by boundaries or parameters.

Political theorists like Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Charles Montesquieu and Jean Jacques Rousseau all differ in their opinions on the social contract. A natural agreement of sorts either with a sovereign in the form of the king or a group of people or a representative government. But the most interesting interpretation is that of Jean Jacques Rousseau: Hence a democracy, not only implies freedom of speech or fundamental rights but also a duty to social contract. They would give up all their THE give back to the commurights, not to a king, but to the whole com- nity. A common misconSOCIAL munity, all the people. He called all the people the ception in our country CONTRACT sovereign, a term used by Thomas Hobbes to mainly where every expects JEAN JACQUES refer to a king. The people then exercised their gen- something from the ROUSSEAU eral will to make laws for the public good. government but refuse to Image Source: contribute. The problem in the state of nature, Rousseau said, was to find a way to protect everyones life, liberty, and property while each person remained free. Rousseaus solution was for people to enter into a


3. enlightened understanding - each citizen ought to have adequate and equal opportunities for discovering and validating the choice on the matter to be decided that would best serve his interests; Citizens should not only be provided with the oppurtunity to exercise their rights to choose but also the opportunity to make an educated choice. Choice debated amongst the community as well as experts and professionals on the subject, so as to understand all spheres of the argument. 4. Must produce the best feasible system all around with respect to the idea of intrinsic equality; and it is instrumental to (ii) maximum feasible freedom; (iii) human development; (iv) the protection of personal interests Source: Slantchev Branislav, Democracy and Its Critics (1989)by Robert Dahl: A Review Gotterdamerung .com [online website] (2001 Review) < reviews/d/democracy-and-its-critics.html >

In order to proceed it was important to understand democracy as an ideology. This sheet represents a summary of mhy study.

DEMOCRATIZING THE CREATION OF ARCHITECTURE ...Citizen participation in planning and design making process... Democracy can interpreted as the right to choose and build your own built environment. A project where one can question where the architects responsibilities lie at - the government? The developer? or the general public?