Design Action 2014: Private Choices, Public Spaces
How can design enable dialogue in contested public spaces? This ArchiteXX-lead design action will address the public-private interface of the last remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi.
Design is a powerful, effective and often under-utilized tool in addressing the complexities of contested spaces. ArchiteXX calls you to collaborate with us in a practice of active citizenship through design. We believe design must engage challenging social and political dimensions of the built environment, such as access to reproductive health care, in order to make improvements at all scales for all people. Knee jerk reactions to these issues are prevalent in mainstream media. We invite the public to think more broadly and deeply about the role design can play in dialogue with such complicated and multi-layered issues. The public-private threshold of an abortion clinic is a highly nuanced interface of strong personal sentiments. Our design action takes the discomfort head-on, illuminating the spatial implications of access to reproductive health care and the role design can play in expanding the conversation.
ArchiteXX initiated this design action to put our values regarding the profession of architecture into practice. Critical of the exploitative nature of conventional design competitions, the project is framed as an open-collaborative think-tank. The design action promotes dialogue and collaboration rather than competition to execute its goal. Through this mode of activism we hope to transform the profession. It is an iterative and lived practice outside the norms of the conventional office. Private Choices, Public Spaces is our first attempt, and we want to invite you to work with us.
The sole surviving abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi is in the state capital of Jackson situated in an upscale neighborhood among art galleries, restaurants and residential pockets near the University of Mississippi’s Medical Center. Located at the corner of a busy commercial area, the clinic has significant public visibility to various groups of people that include local residents, business owners, shoppers, pedestrians and vehicular traffic in addition to clinic patients and employees.
The existing fence around the clinic physically defines its property line. Constructed of vertical iron members 6 inches apart, it symbolizes the most contested zone of the clinic. Legally, it is a boundary protesters cannot physically cross. Once patients step into this zone, they have theoretically entered the protected, private space of the clinic. The airy fence, however, provides no separation from visual or auditory assault and is transgressed by varying degrees of protester poster size and sound amplification on an almost daily basis.
ArchiteXX identified an opportunity to re-envision how to treat this public-private interface along the fence. The material objective of our design action is to construct an installation at the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, JWHO, in Jackson, MS which will provide safe and respectful access to the clinic while retaining required emergency clearances from the clinic’s front doors.
Consider the provocations above and send your response to on a 5 inch x 7 inch postcard using both sides. Don’t be afraid to blend text and image. You may submit multiple but detached postcards. If they are to be read in a sequence, please indicate this as (number/quantity in sequence) on the back. This crowd-sourced conversation is critical to the collaborative foundation of the design action. Our goal is to collect 500 postcards. We want your input! Your postcards will directly inform the design discussions.
We have a short period to make this happen! Address as shown below and post no later than August 30, 2014 because our show must be up by September 15.
If you do not have personal experience with these issues, we encourage you to visit a local clinic, speak with those accessing care as well as those protesting it and go online and watch the many videos that are posted. Before proposing an idea, we encourage you to see firsthand what environments around clinics are like instead of observing from afar. You can locate a clinic at www.abortioncarenetwork.org, www.abortion.com, www.gynpages.com, and www.ppfa.org. Work interdisciplinarily and experientially. It is our belief that to design is to actively participate, and that participation leads to innovation.
By also financially backing this project, your postcard(s) will be exhibited at the Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries at Parson’s The New School for Design on Fifth Avenue in New York City this September 2014 and will help frame a series of conversations and design sessions towards the development of the final installation. The postcards and exhibition will also travel, live through an online component and culminate in an eventual publication.
As a way to fund the exhibition, design development, and the eventual construction in Mississippi, we are asking participants to make a donation as a pre-requisite for entry into our design collaboration. Suggested donations appear in our Paypal link. For entry into the exhibition, your PayPal transaction number must be noted on the top left corner of the back side of your postcard, but feel free to include your name, location, and other identifying information you would like for the knowledge of visitors to the exhibition.
Participation is open to all! Questions? Contact Lori Brown: firstname.lastname@example.org or Kimberly Tate: email@example.com
This project is in part funded by the Abortion Conversation Project, www.abortionconversation.com.