Press Releases

Announcing the Release of SOM Thinkers: The Future of Public Space

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill is pleased to announce the release of The Future of Public Space, the second volume in the SOM Thinkers series.

Routine discussions on public space omit a gamut of possibilities ripe for critical discussion. In a collection of short but intellectually invigorating reads, The Future of Public Space reflects on these possibilities beyond typical contexts. The eight essays included in the book explore a wide variety of impacts that different types of public space—urban and rural, real and virtual—can have on everyday experiences in an increasingly privatized world. Amplifying voices beyond those within the discipline of conventional architecture criticism, this book considers how such experiences might change in the future.

"That the essays in this volume take us everywhere from West Texas to Mars reveals the infinite variety—and possibility—of this space. There is not, nor will there ever be, a formula for creating successful public space," Allison Arieff writes in the book's introduction. Michelle Nijhuis examines changing attitudes towards the original mission of the National Park Service in light of climate change. Jaron Lanier meditates on the idea of public space online, linking the prevailing, free-for-all model of the internet with a characteristically American yearning for freedom and repudiation of rules. Rachel Monroe challenges American preconceptions of the wild, wide-open West by addressing issues of technological surveillance. In the series’ first fictional piece, China Miéville covers a never-before-examined area of public space under the guise of detective fiction. Christopher DeWolf shares a multi-sensory navigation trip through Hong Kong’s tangled landscape. Ben Davis uses an overview of public art to track changing political attitudes about public space: past, present, and future. Sarah Fecht explores the possibility of public space on Mars, where "a blank slate provides a chance to privilege elements of good urbanism." Lawrence Weiner contributes examples of his iconic public art.

"As a profession, architecture tends to look inward and create something of an echo chamber that amplifies our own voices on the critical subject of the built environment," says SOM Design Partner Roger Duffy. "With this series of books we hope to look beyond those familiar voices to broaden the conversation about buildings from a refreshing set of perspectives."

Each installment of SOM Thinkers brings together leading voices on a single topic. Originating from a desire to start a public conversation about the built environment, SOM Thinkers poses provocative questions and speculations about design and architecture from perspectives outside its professional culture.

Allison Arieff is the editorial director for SPUR.

Michelle Nijhuis writes for National Geographic and High Country News.

Jaron Lanier is a computer scientist, composer, visual artist, and author.

Rachel Monroe is a journalist, volunteer firefighter, and occasional radio host.

China Miéville is a weird fiction writer, academic, and activist.

Christopher DeWolf is the author of Borrowed Spaces: Life Between the Cracks of Modern Hong Kong.

Ben Davis is the national art critic for artnet News.

Sarah Fecht runs the Earth Institute’s State of the Planet blog.

Lawrence Weiner is a language-based sculptor.

The Future of Public Space is now available for purchase. A sample chapter—“Eyes in the Sky: Being Watched in the Rural West," by Rachel Monroe—can be read online.

About Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) is one of the leading architecture, interior design, engineering, and urban planning firms in the world. Since its founding more than 80 years ago, SOM has earned a reputation for design excellence with a portfolio that includes some of the most important architectural accomplishments of the 20th and 21st centuries, and has been a leader in the research and development of specialized technologies, new processes and innovative ideas, many of which have had a palpable and lasting impact on the design profession and the physical environment. The firm’s longstanding leadership in design and building technology has been honored with nearly 2,000 awards for quality, innovation, and management. The American Institute of Architects has recognized SOM twice with its highest honor, the Architecture Firm Award—in 1962 and again in 1996. The firm maintains offices in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Dubai, and Mumbai.