Chicago Public Art Group’s
Questions for Designing Community Space


by Olivia Gude and Jon Pounds

Who spends time in the space?

Which age groups use the space?  Is the space associated with particular ethnic, racial, or cultural groups?  Will area residents mainly use the site? Will the site be used for cultural tourism?

How is the space used?
What kinds of activities occur in the space?  Do the uses seem compatible or contradictory? Is the space used differently at different times of day? Are there activities that the community would like to discourage? Are there activities the community would like to promote?

Who owns the space?
Who currently feels ownership of the space? Who also should feel ownership for the space? If the space is “contested,” can this project create joint ownership? What entity, person, or organization legally owns the space? Who has responsibility for maintaining the space? What kinds of community involvement would we like to stimulate for caring for and protecting the space?

How does it feel to be in the space?
What adjectives describe the space? How does your mind react to being in this place? How does your body react to being in this space? What adjectives describe how your body feels in this space? What is present in this space? What is absent from this space? How would you like to feel in this space in the future?

What makes this place unique?
How has this space been used in the recent past? How has it been used in various more distant pasts? Is the current project changing or reaffirming the space usage?  What is the history of the place or area?  How can the site contribute to a sense of community identity?  Before urbanization, what did this space look like? What people, plants, or creatures have inhabited this space? Can interpretive materials be used to communicate the history of the place?  Are there opportunities to use public art to shape and enhance the unique qualities of the space?

Who plans the space?
Who has responsibility for designing, building, and maintaining the space? How do we bring together appropriate decision making bodies? Who needs to be at the table as designs are developed? What formats and processes can be used to bring together decision makers? How do we involve the community without getting “lowest common denominator” novice design ideas?  In what ways can residents (or various groups of residents) serve as experts?

Who pays for the space?
What resources are available to build the infrastructure? What resources are available for creating art for the space? What community partners (schools, government agencies, community organizations, businesses, etc.) may be able to contribute money or resources to the development of the space? Which funders might be interested in supporting this project? Which people can help develop fundraising strategies?

Who will physically create the space?
What agencies or groups will be responsible for implementing the design? Will the space be created solely by professionals (builders, artists, etc.) or will there be opportunities for area residents to participate in the actual making of the space? What models of involving community residents will work best in this situation? What materials are durable and well suited to collaborative execution?

What are the benefits of community space design and community public art?
Why use collaborative design in planning processes? Why incorporate community public art in space design? Who benefits? What are the criteria by which planners and community members will judge the success of a project? Are there ways in which community art and design make life more difficult for planners? How does community art and design make life better for planners and residents?

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