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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

A day in the life of a studio. Photo Source: Falguni Gupta


Public spaces are the spaces of encounter, contestations and collaborations where changes manifest and play out, through an interaction between people, networks and time. Such places are created by those who inhabit them through their interactions and practices. The design of public places therefore is inherently collaborative and trans-disciplinary, bringing together people of various interests, ideas and competences.

There is a need to develop paradigms of societies that are inclusive, equitable, diverse and resilient, and public sphere and places become a medium that can enable, encourage and facilitate the shaping of such societies.
This program cultivates an inquiry led approach towards a discursive, critical and creative practice, which fosters innovation through the designer as a change and 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. It is important to 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. Place based interactions bring alive discourses such as urban common spaces, role of heritage in urban placemaking and the critical role public spaces play as spaces of refuge in events of disaster. Placemaking transcends the notions of community based planning and management of public spaces to promote health, happiness and wellbeing towards a more critical role in transforming the worldviews that govern societies.

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.

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

  • Disciplinary Studies
  • Trans-disciplinary Projects
  • Theory and Understanding Units
  • Practice
  • Self-Directed Inquiry/Research
  • Knowledge Enhancement (Ability or Skills)

Using participatory methods to engage with stakeholders _Photo Source-Kolla Srivalli

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.

Capability sets

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

  • Examine and engage in systematic enquiry of cultural, political, environmental and historical uniqueness of place and complexity of contexts
  • Critique constraints, question assumptions and limitations; think independently and strive for deeper engagement in the area of knowledge.

Communication Skills

  • Use a participatory approach to engage with communities and effectively communicate their views to a wide range of audiences.
  • Ability to understand, analyze and synthesize information, select and use appropriate methods of research & communication.

Practitioner Skills

  • Identify, explore, experiment with real and conceptual frameworks and develop innovative practice.
  • Be sensitive towards regional perspectives, respect diversity and help design for just and inclusive communities.
  • Make informed choices and expand ideas of art, design, policy and sustainability to make their own practice more informed and enriched.
  • Design, engage and manage safe, sustainable and layered engagements for people, with public space.

The course fosters collaborations at multiple scales. The UNESCO chair, Design+Environment+Law Laboratory (DEL Laboratory) and LeNS LAB – Learning Network for Sustainability at Srishti are the centres that reinforce the course through research and projects. An extended network of partners from local communities, non-governmental organisations, government institutions, universities and industry supports the place based learning

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

Disciplinary Intersections

The program is informed by the following learning disciplines:

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