Designing for Social Exchange and Protest

Federation Square, Melbourne Credit: Flickr User – Takver

In recent times, the spaces of the cities have become places of protest and places of attack. The fear is that these spaces will become fortified and lead to the reduction in public exchange and erosion of democratic use of spaces to protest. This leads us to the question of how do we design the streets and public spaces of cities to allow for the exchange of ideas (through protest) whilst protecting the safety of those involved in the exchange without fear of harm or attack.

To design spaces for social exchange we need to understand the community, discover their needs and wants, learn from past spaces and seek to create a tapestry of program over spaces that allow people to thrive and take ownership of the space. Using these principles will create a space that allows individuals and groups to exchange ideas whether it is in small groups or by protesting as a large group.

Hyde Park Speakers Corner – Credit: Flickr User – Cory Doctorow
Berlin – Credit: Flickr User – Chris Hoare
Trafalgar Square, London – Flickr User – DAVID HOLT

How we make these spaces feel safe for people to exchange ideas is to be creative about designing the security measures whether through hidden fences or utilising trees, planters, seats and other forms of urban furniture to create safe spaces for all. Designing these spaces is not an easy task, however taking the time to develop ideas and approaches to create safe spaces for exchange is worth the long-term benefits to society.

Zuccotti Park, New York, USA – Credit: Flickr User – Ilana
Kiev, Ukraine – Credit: Flickr User – Ivan Bandura

All cities should have spaces that are public squares and parks that allow people to protest and voice their opinions in a safe environment. How we achieve this is through good design of public space that is not only for passive and active recreation but also provides the opportunity of protest.


University of Tennessee – Credit: Flickr User – Charity Davenport

This post was inspired by the presentation by Gina Ford, Mikyoung Kim and Claude Cormier at the 2017 ASLA Annual Meeting in Los Angeles.

Cover Image – Brisbane – Credit: Flickr User – David Jackmanson




Article Written by Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of WLA.
He is also a registered Landscape Architect and has extensive experience as a landscape architect in Australia, Canada, and China. 



About Damian Holmes 3313 Articles
Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at