Date of Award

Spring 6-3-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Design (MDes) in Interior Studies / Exhibition + Narrative Environments


Interior Architecture

First Advisor

Dr. Barbara Stehle

Second Advisor

Ellen Garrett

Third Advisor

Lindsay Harkema


Cities that grow naturally over time integrate spaces of gathering that allow for serendipitous happenstance. However, the cities we design today instruct and codify through intentional planning and design; they assign use, hardening specific function to place. Such strategies lead to spaces devoid of spirit, inculcating in city-dwellers to a sense of disconnect from the city.

In contrast to this, the places we make as children, express our intuitive, direct, and unselfconscious relationships with space and one other. These spaces embody softness through their malleability and adaptability, borrowing from the world around them and imbuing the ordinary with imagination. Children’s sense of place-making stems from a language of architecture inherent to us all through our instinctive understanding of object and space. The hyper-functionality of the public space in the city robs us not only of our agency in the city but also of this child-like instinct toward placemaking and play. This thesis learns from our innate understanding of architecture and develops a framework of strategies that attempt to soften the language of hardness in the city by turning underutilized public spaces into urban playgrounds for all ages.

Through the transformation of a network of Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS) in Lower Manhattan, New York City, a genre of public space that exemplify bland urban sameness ubiquitous to the cities of today, this thesis introduces a vocabulary of softness that positions the child as the user and designer. A series of site-specific interventions that trigger the kind of memories and experiences that foster and encourage community and a sense of place in all users. This softness rekindles our relationship with the city and its people. The framework explores materials, surfaces, experiences, and systems intended as a response to hardnesses in the cityscape. It adds to the malleability of places and encourages intuitive use for the city dweller. It also offers guidelines that critique and drive the scope of future public space designs.



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