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Public Space Design

“There is no logic that can be superimposed on the city; people make it, and it is to them, not buildings, that we must fit our plans.” - Jane Jacobs

Exploring the flood affected areas in Wayanad


The Masters Program in Public Space Design aims towards the formation of a community of practitioners who are able to transform the notions of sense of place. Places are shaped not just by their physical qualities but also the political, social, cultural, emotional and virtual spheres that act in them.

This program cultivates an inquiry led approach towards a discursive, critical and creative practice, which fosters innovation through the designer as a change maker and an impact maker.

A critical engagement with people, places, policy and theory, allows navigation through the complex interactions between spatial design, systems design, law, policy, and governance. The students challenge, question, envision notions of public spaces and build an informed and reflective practice that is alive to debates, contradictions and possibilities in the field.

The engagement with real life projects developed in collaboration with NGOs, government agencies, industry and other stakeholders in a studio format cultivates a deep and rigorous understanding of context, systems, processes and their interactions with space.

Key Values

The qualities of justice, inclusivity, sustainability and adaptability that we would like to see in a society are determined by the quality of the spaces accessible to the society at large. As such, values of empathy, sustainability, adaptability, inclusivity and collaborative creativity are core to the vision and approach.

Hands-on learning about sustainable methods in a workshop conducted in Pondicherry - PhotoSource: Srivalli Kolla

Course Structure

Core units:
Core units cover the essential discourse, methods and approaches relevant to the field & discipline of the course. These units are compulsory and have to be studied by a student as a core-requirement to complete the requirements of a degree in a said discipline of study.

Trans-disciplinary Unit:
This studio will facilitate collaborative and creative design solutions to complex, open-ended problems in specific contexts. They provide intense learning experiences in making and doing, across different courses with shared course structure.

Independent Study:
This unit is designed to acquire deeper understanding as a supplement to a studio or a core unit with advisory support. Independent study leads to a Line of Enquiry(LoE) rendered by each student, which may then inform his/her work portfolio.

Interlude open studio is a space for a practical engagement related to a relevant field of study that is creative, reflective and extensive. It allows for collaborative working to conceptualize an experiment, a symposium or exhibition, and public engagement or demonstration. Topics explored are drawn from areas of contemporary relevance.

Theory & Understanding:

This unit is aimed to cultivate intellectual and reflective abilities in students and motivate them to probe deeper and approach their design process in a more holistic manner.

This is the culmination of the research, capabilities and knowledge gained over the last three semesters. Students are mentored during this final project and go through reviews to get feedback from faculty and peer groups. Finally students are required to submit their design output and a mandated thesis document.

Research Proposal:
It is a precursor to the Capstone and students develop a proposal for the Capstone. It includes research, planning and articulation and builds on the line of enquiry developed in the previous semesters.

Self-Directed Inquiry:
This is an end of the semester challenge that allows students to engage in research / enquiry or design based projects. They begin by writing their project proposal and defining the scope of their project and are mentored by faculty / design professionals.

This develops a reflective and a curated body of work, which represents evidence of growth, development and application of design processes, and research into professional practice, acquired over the duration of the academic experience. It also includes a position paper that stems from the line of enquiry developed in the independent study.

An internship with Industry or a Design Studio is compulsory for students at the end of Semester 2.

Students having a conversation with Niranjan Nikam, a senior journalist in Mysore at his residence during the workshop - Photo Source: Ishita Shah

Learning Approach

Learning is driven by engagement with theory/discourse, reflective practice and real world experience. This approach allows for a comprehensive exposure to possibilities across the world and creates an awareness of the contemporary context.

Program learning components include:

  • A theoretical and conceptual knowledge of approaches to public space design, current issues and discourses across the world
  • Using design-thinking tools to research the context, analyze and synthesize and conceptualize a solution.
  • Understanding of methods and tools of comprehensive studies in project and/or discourse in public space design
  • Collaboration among peers, practitioners and the community.
  • Using live projects/opportunities to create and test interventions/participatory design in community spaces.

Students presenting their research and findings at the Bangalore Central University as part of their studio , “University as a Urban Commons” - Photo Source: Pranjal Jain

Capability sets

On successful completion of the course, graduates will have the following capabilities:


  • Examine and engage in systematic enquiry of cultural, political, environmental and historical uniqueness of place and complexity of contexts
  • Identify what is to be known in multifaceted contexts and suitably adapt discipline specific knowledge for problem solving.
  • Critique constraints, question assumptions and limitations; think independently and strive for deeper engagement in the area of knowledge.

Entrepreneurial leader

  • Design, engage and manage safe, sustainable and layered engagements for people, with public space.
  • Ability to understand, analyze and synthesize information, select and use appropriate methods of research & communication.


  • Identify, explore, experiment with real and conceptual frameworks and develop innovative practice.
  • Make informed choices and expand ideas of art, design, policy and sustainability to make their own practice more informed and enriched.

Global Citizen

  • Use a participatory approach to engage with communities and effectively communicate their views to a wide range of audiences.
  • Be sensitive towards regional perspectives, respect diversity and help design for just and inclusive communities.

Student teams in dialogue with national and international delegates at the ICOMOS Global Assembly 2017 in New Delhi - Photo Source: Gautam Nayak


  • Employment in creative industries such as architecture, landscape design, interiors and urban design
  • Employment in research and development organizations, NGOs & social enterprises working in the urban sector
  • Graduates can become contemporary design practitioner, entrepreneur, design consultant or an academician
  • Graduates could work with and have an active involvement in emerging domains such as public policy making and public space design and planning


For more information about this program, kindly email Mary Jacob at
or Ranjani Balasubramanian at

Disciplinary Intersections

The program is informed by the following learning disciplines:

Spatial Design
Landscape Design
Urban Studies and Design
Environmental Graphics
Sustainability studies
Policy Studies and Environmental Law
Cultural studies
Heritage Conservation
Urban and Regional Planning
Ecology and Environment

Research and Collaboration


View Eligibility for Admission, Fee Schedule, Application Form & Other information for this Program >>