Join us for a discussion to mark the occasion of Setha Low’s new publication, Why Public Space Matters (Oxford University Press, 2022), in conversation with Ya-Ting Liu, Matthew Clarke, and Quilian Riano.

This program presents powerful, recent findings about the importance of public space in the creation of a more just city. The discussion will focus on the contributions of public space to democratic practices, health and well-being, sustainability, work in the informal economy, and social justice. The panelists will explore—from the perspectives of a researcher, city leader, non-profit organization, and educator—what these lessons mean for a dramatically changing New York City. With participation from the audience, the conversation will explore why public space matters to New York City.

About the Speakers:
Ya-Ting Liu is the Chief Public Realm Officer for the City of New York. Liu brings over 15 years of policy, community organizing, coalition building, and government affairs experience to the Adams administration. She has dedicated her career to building coalitions and partnerships to deliver projects across a range of issue areas, including transportation, sustainability, and technology. For the last year, she has served as chief strategy officer to Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi, a title she will continue to hold concurrently with chief public realm officer. Before entering city government, Liu worked as the director of government affairs and policy for the rideshare company Via, as sustainability program director for the New York League of Conservation Voters, as director of transit advocacy for Transportation Alternatives, and in federal advocacy for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. Liu earned a Bachelor of Science in conservation studies from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Master in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Setha M. Low began her career in Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning at the University of Pennsylvania and is currently Distinguished Professor of Environmental Psychology, Geography, and Anthropology, and Director of the Public Space Research Group at the Graduate Center, CUNY. She received a Getty Fellowship, a NEH Award, a Fulbright Senior Research Grant and a Guggenheim Fellowship for public space research in Latin America and the U.S. Recent books include Why Public Space Matters (2023), Spatializing Culture (2017), Anthropology and the City (2019) and Spaces of Security with M. Maguire (2019).

Matthew Clarke is the Executive Director of the Design Trust for Public Space, where he advocates for the power of public space to build vibrant, equitable communities. As an architect, planner, and writer, he has advanced complex architectural and urban design projects, developed public-space policies, and developed national partnerships and initiatives. Prior to leading the Design Trust, Clarke was that National Director of Creative Placemaking at The Trust for Public Land, where he was the author of The Field Guide for Creative Placemaking and Parks. He has also held positions at SHoP Architects, the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, and LTL Architects. He was a German Marshall Fund Urban Policy Fellow, a member of Next City’s Urban Vanguard, and winner of the international KPF Prize. Clarke serves as a Trustee of Bennington College and as Vice-President of the Lucille Lortel Foundation. He studied at Princeton University and the University of Kentucky.

Quilian Riano is the Dean of Pratt Institute’s School of Architecture, Vice President for Architecture at the Architectural League of New York, and founder and lead designer of DSGN AGNC, a design studio exploring cooperatized processes and engagements through architecture, urbanism, landscape, and art. Riano is also a core member of Dark Matter U, a democratic network committed to creating new forms of knowledge and knowledge production, institutions, collectivity, practice, design, and community culture. Riano holds a Bachelors of Design in Architecture (BDes) from the University of Florida’s School of Architecture and a Masters of Architecture (MArch) from the Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design (GSD).

Organized by
Center for Architecture