Public Space Offering Surprising Lessons While Hosting Trump Protests

Christopher Hawthorne examines the unprecedented protests of the Women's March and the more recent airport protests for lessons in the understanding and appreciation of public space.
February 7, 2017, 10am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Los Angeles Times Architecture Critic Christopher Hawthorne is providing analysis of the function of public space in the protests of recent weeks. The latest example is a February 2, 2017 column about the protests at LAX and other airports around the country in response to an executive order by President Donald Trump to "suspend the U.S. refugee program and temporarily prohibit entry to citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries…"

Hawthorne focuses on airports as sites that embody many of the ideas and ideals contested by the Trump Administration's action. "It’s also true that the international terminals of American airports, however much some of us dread their long lines and placeless design, are conveners for the kind of cosmopolitanism and multiculturalism that Trump’s nativist, 'America first' rhetoric has put squarely in the cross-hairs," writes Hawthorne.

Yet, throughout the article Hawthorne never loses sight of the deficiencies of design inherent in airports everywhere. Somehow, however, these deficiencies supplemented the political outcry of the thousands of protestors that occupied the airport. "Unlike a public square, which tends to operate as a successful political space to the degree that it’s an effective public one, the airport is a hospitable host for protest precisely because of how poorly it works in terms of civic design on a typical day," writes Hawthorne in describing this surprising, previously undiscovered ability of airports.

Another article by Hawthorne, published on January 21, 2017, examines the Women's March protest that took place in Los Angeles. That protest sprawled from Pershing Square (a much-lamented public square in the middle of Downtown, which is also in line for a massive overhaul) to the newer Grand Park, located across the street from City Hall. In that article, Hawthorne considers the Women's March as "another sign of the city’s continuing effort to redefine, or at least recalibrate, its public-ness." In evaluating the performance of the city's downtown public and civic space, Hawthorne tests Los Angeles' readiness for a new era of public living. His review is mixed.

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Published on Thursday, February 2, 2017 in Los Angeles Times
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