Mediating [Infra]Structures is a series of talks, debates and workshops that investigates if the proclaimed disappearance of the public sphere can be reassembled in contemporary shared spaces like shopping centers, mass transport hubs and cultural centers. By taking place ‘in situ’ in representative shared spaces in and around Brussels, Mediating [Infra]Structures invites a wide audience to experience these spaces in an original manner and to participate in the reflexion and debate on the topic of how the public domain in our contemporary society should be conceived and designed. Through three public talk and debate events, each expanded on by a series of workshops and classes in the framework of the public school for architecture brussels, Mediating [Infra]Structures creates a collective exercise in reimagining our contemporary shared spaces as mediators of a new public realm but in itself also becomes an experiment in reassembling our shared spaces.


In 1992 architectural critic Michael Sorkin ominously announced ‘the end of public space’. This was the subtitle of his widely acclaimed book Variations on a Theme Park, which set out to demonstrate that starting from the late 20th century a new kind of urbanism emerged that was manipulative, dispersed, and hostile to traditional public space. The examples that Sorkin used to illustrate this point were (among others), the shopping center, corporate enclaves and—of course—the theme park. He described these environments as apparently benign spaces that are in reality structured to achieve maximum control, thereby obstructing the possibility for ‘authentic interaction’ or ‘spontaneous encounter’.

The reason why Sorkin proclaimed ‘the end of public space’ was because he did not believe that these new [infra]structures (such as the shopping center) could function as meeting places, as spaces of encounter. His critique seems to align with dominant cultural-political ideology of public space that—informed by historical-sociological studies—commonly asserts that genuine public space only existed in the past. The coffee houses in Vienna, the cafés and boulevards of Paris and the British commons are only a few of many traditional places that are often-cited examples of ‘real’ public space.

It is perhaps more the comparison with these ideal (old) public spaces that makes architectural critics—such as Sorkin—assert that today ‘public space’ has come to an end. This leads us to question precisely what kind of public space has perished? Is it their elusive character, which makes it more difficult to define their contribution to the production of social space that has led us to denounce ‘shared spaces’ such as the shopping center altogether?

Mediating [Infra]Structures places a new focus on these contemporary ‘shared spaces’, by examining three examples—cultural centers, mass transport hubs and shopping centers—through three public talk events. All conceived or popularized in the second half of the 20th century. these spaces are neither completely public nor entirely private, but all possess ‘mediating’ qualities. In these spaces the distinctions between the public and the private, consumption and production and the individual and the collective are blurred. As such, they contain the capacity to present a common ground for contemporary society.


Mediating [Infra]Structures investigates if the proclaimed disappearance of the public sphere can be reassembled in these spaces or if they could be reimagined as mediators of a new public realm.

The different events will address questions such as
What are the material practices that define these infrastructures?
How do these mediating [infra]structures contribute to a production of social space?
What are the socio-political and cultural discourses that shape them?
What are the types of social relationships supported through these infrastructures?
How are they determined by discursive processes?
How can design impact the emancipation of the public form?


Follow Mediating [Infra]Structures on Facebook

Contact Mediating [Infra]Structures at

Mediating [Infra]Structures
is a joint project by common room, Janina Gosseye and City3
in collaboration with the public school for architecture brussels

Project team:
Lars Fischer
Janina Gosseye
Jorg De Vriese

Graphic design:
Valentijn Goethals & Tomas Lootens (

Mathieu Serruys (


With the support of:
The Arts and Heritage Agency of the Flemish Community
KU Leuven Faculty of Architecture Campus Sint Lucas
TU Delft Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment