Public Space: Fights and Fictions

WILFRIED WANG

Wilfried Wang (Hamburg) founded the architecture firm Hoidn Wang Partner in Berlin, Germany, together with Baraba Hoidn. After studying architecture in London, he taught and lectured at various schools of architecture and, since 2002, has been the O’Neil Ford Centennial Professor in Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin. The author and editor of various architectural monographs and topographs, he is also co-editor of the O’Neil Ford Monograph and Duograph Series and founding co-editor with Nadir Tharani of 9H Magazine. He served from 1995 to 2000 as the Director of the German Architecture Museum, and was co-director with Ricky Burdett of the 9H Gallery. In addition, he is the Chair of the Schelling Architecture Foundation Executive Committee, a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts, Stockholm, an honorary member of the Portuguese Chamber of Architects, and a member and deputy director of the architecture section of the Akademie der Künste, Berlin. He has been awarded an honorary doctorate by the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm.

Where but in physical public space is there a common, shared medium where everyone present is potentially an equal, free from the fear of being surveilled, from having one’s identity matched with one’s preferences? The Internet is already lost to paranoid and ineffective quasi-governmental secret services and equally secretive international corporations. The one physical public space we have needs to be defended and reclaimed for our collective and individual freedoms. Without these collective and individual freedoms, there can be no true democracy. This constant process of reclamation needs to encompass the assertion of all basic freedoms and the proper care, maintenance and design of physical public space.
Unfortunately, few people realise the dangers confronting democracy today. Many people are satisfied with what they have, some not even aware there is a problem, and many of those who are conscious of the threats are too intimidated by the mechanisms of power to voice their concerns. Thus, today, we are gradually and inexorably losing the foundations of democracy.