Interactions between the state and the public in urban space

Plan Author

  • Izzy Yandell, 2019

Fields of Concentration

Faculty Sponsors

Outside Evaluator

  • Caryn Brause, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This collection of essays and accompanying sculptural work analyzes the effect of the state on the built environment, particularly in political (public) spaces. It begins with a look into the 2018 Velvet Revolution in Armenia, an essay where I discuss how the public sphere in Armenia used the built environment to create significant political change in a corrupt post-Soviet government structure. One of the spaces utilized during the Velvet Revolution, Republic Square, has an essay to itself. Moving away from Armenia, my third essay in this body of work takes on a more politically charged area of study: Jerusalem and the Wailing Wall Plaza as a symbol of Israeli nationalism and the erasure of Palestinian narrative. My last essay in this collection of works takes a step back to analyze public space more generally.


The Velvet Revolution thrived due to its nonviolent nature. By analyzing how people move through space in a noninstitutionalized way, we are really looking at how people conduct themselves in spaces without state agendas and are therefore better equipped to understand how to disrupt and alter the everyday uses of public space. I am using public space to mean a space that is produced in the urban fabric of an area as an accessible and open space.6 As there can be no neutral space free of any ideology, we should see public space as always political and open to change in its conceptual value and usage.

The visual landscape of the Wailing Wall Plaza is dominated by the golden dome of the Dome of the Rock. The Israeli state has been attempting to manipulate the urban heritage of the Wailing Wall to breakdown and silence those who hold opposing values by enhancing the monumentality of the Wall as a symbol of the Jewish state. What is fascinating in terms of the construction of heritage is that the Jewish Israeli state must operate with the ever-present visual existence of thehistoric Muslim rulership instead of the hoped-for absence of the Palestinian peoples. In creating the Wailing Wall Plaza after 1967, there was an understanding among a lot of Jewish communities that the right to pray at the wall equated to ownership of the wall.

In the creation of public space, decisions are made about who is a public person; whether intentional or not, constructing and giving meaning to public space include making decisions on who can and cannot be present within that space and what the actions and behavior inside that space should or will look like. Along with the expectations of what behaviors are and are not acceptable in public space, protocols for overseeing and enforcing those behaviors also exist. Inherent in public space then is some idea of a social justice agenda. Justice against whom? The creation of public spaces is directly influenced by market capitalism, and the bodies not welcome in public spaces are policed out of them to increase the profitability of that public space and all of its surrounding businesses.

A piece from Izzy Yandell’s Plan exhibit.
A piece from Izzy Yandell’s Plan exhibit.
A scene from Izzy Yandell’s Plan exhibit opening.
A scene from Izzy Yandell’s Plan exhibit opening.
Republic Square in Yerevan, Armenia.