Designing for Democracy

Can political theory be used to explain the political function of physical space? This 1997-98 Harvard GSD thesis explores the possibilities for designing for democracy. Taking contemporary Athens as a case study, an attempt is made to establish direct if flexible connections between actual physical spaces, landscapes, and buildings, and the notions of a democratic society as reflected in works of the major political theorists of our time, and then to use the conclusions drawn for the design of a new place for the city. In part I, the function of existing Athenian places, landscapes and buildings is examined from the point of view of their social and political effect. In part II, the main works supporting the leading views of a democratic society are summarized, and their possible relations to physical space are examined. In part III, the directions for design formerly hinted at are explored, contrasted and synthesized into a general design strategy. In part IV, the site for the proposed project, Eleonas, is introduced. In part V the design proposals are presented and examined relative to the theoretical framework previously explored.

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