Public spaces should be antidotes to frenzied cities and bleak, urban sprawl. But neoliberalism and globalism have undermined their civic roles, transforming public spaces into products of spectacle and private interests. For years we have tussled with ideas around ownership of privately-managed public spaces, and the deployment of “hostile architecture” designed to stop people loitering and lingering.
These designs often attack the most vulnerable people in our communities, sending a very clear signal that certain people aren’t wanted. Now more than ever we are seeing individuals and communities across the globe being forced to isolate and separate. Lockdowns have emptied our public spaces or made them unavailable, with benches and resting places in particular being covered in hazard tape or entirely removed. The pandemic has again raised questions around the use of public spaces, and how they are an integral part of our networked cities whether for recreation, movement, habitat or a sense of place.
How do we unlock spaces for their true public value? As part of Overmorrow, The NewBridge Project would like to commission a piece of public furniture that invites social relationships as a permanent monument to the present. We want to commission a monument that memorialises society here and now by enabling people to encounter each other. This space will encourage welcome without hostility, by celebrating the ideologies around building collective futures.
From the open call 3 artists will be selected to design a physical (maquette, 3D model or diagram) of their proposal. These designs will be exhibited in The NewBridge Project gallery in Gateshead along with other supporting material curated by members of the Programme Committee.
As the exhibition draws to a close, 1 of the artists will be selected to develop their concept into a full-size physical structure to be installed in an outdoor setting for public interaction. This will be launched in summer 2021 and will coincide with The NewBridge Project’s move to a new location. Further details about the relocation will shared at a later date, along with a rolling set of events which will be developed by the selected artist and The NewBridge Programme Committee.