‘Public’ is often used to define the spaces of approved social interaction; it is where differences meet and community is built.
The definition of what is public space is often ill defined and contested. Rather than existing in a binary opposition, public and private spaces operate at a variety of scales that overlap and intersect. To one person it’s the local pub where they share stories and unwind after the day’s work. To others it’s the town hall, local church, neighbourhood park, or somebody’s living room used as a place of congregation for the community. As places for people to come together to talk about day-to-day issues and connect with others through shared activity and shared location, public spaces help to engender the civil participation and sense of place that binds a community together.
In January 2017, The Public Age commission invited London-based design agency The Decorators and Irish Artist Joe Coveney to research how the older residents of Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown experience public space and how this has changed as they age. Following a period of research that looked at perceptions and experiences of aging in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown, The Public Age Meeting House has emerged as a proposal to revive an old ritual - the Meeting House. It is a proposal to prototype a new social space that reinvents this old custom, which for centuries served as a focal point for public life.
During Stage 1, interviews with local residents highlighted a limit of interaction between different age groups in today’s public spaces and a sense that the possibilities for civic culture have been reduced to consumer and lifestyle cultures.
At four distinct public spaces in Dun Laoighaire/Rathdown, we will interrupt existing public rituals with a series of curated public events.
Public space is where democracy should play out. Primarily decisions are made about public space and its users from afar. At each space, we will bring together people who use it daily, young and old, professionals and citizens, in a shared collaboration to stage a public conversation about that space.
Based on the principal that all voices are equal - The Meeting House symbolizes the dissolving of traditional power structures. The structure and curated events act as a social intervention - a collective performance in public space that explores our shared experience of that space.
The conversation will be choreographed by a set of questions that will look to explore themes of Public Age specific to the typology of each location whether it be a community building, a public park, a key landmark or shopping centre for example.