Art and the city

Cities remain remarkable places where creativity and innovation thrive next to grotesque capital accumulation, deprivation and inequality

Designing Politics - exhibition exploring design, politics and the city opens at LSE 
9 May to 9 June; Mon-Fri 10am-8pm, Sat 12-5pm 
LSE Atrium Gallery, Old Building, entrance via Clare Market WC2A

What does it mean to design for free speech? Can architects create urban commons? Is respect something that can be built into the city? An exhibition exploring these questions opens at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) this week.

‘Designing Politics’ is the result of three year’s work exploring how art and urban planning can connect led by Theatrum Mundi, a network of urbanists and artists based at LSE. Emerging from workshops inspired by the Occupy Movement in 2012, and building on three previous exhibitions held in New York, London and Rio de Janeiro, Designing Politics features original art work and prose from artists, architects and performers from these three cities reflecting on the relationship between design, politics and the city.

The exhibition will display over 10 projects from each city in an exploratory format allowing the viewer to read projects from different cities and themes together. The project texts and images will be accompanied by quotes from a wide range of literature from academic journals to songs. Maps illustrating the geo-localised projects from the three ideas competitions will also be exhibited. This mapping is initial work to analyse where projects are situated, and in the case of Rio de Janeiro, link that to the residence of the people behind them.

Adam Kaasa, Director of Theatrum Mundi, said: “Cities remain remarkable places where creativity and innovation thrive next to grotesque capital accumulation, deprivation and inequality. If cities are, perhaps, ‘unsolvable’ – then they need all the ideas they can get. Designing Politics showcases ideas from New York, London and Rio de Janeiro with teams tasked to design for free speech, the commons and respect. The results provoke questions about the democratic capacity of the city itself.”

Designing Politics builds on three exhibitions curated by Theatrum Mundi. In New York in 2014, artists were asked to consider whether urban design interventions can stimulate the use of the First Amendment protecting free speech in public. In London in 2015, Theatrum Mundi called for the design of systems and situations through which new urban commons could be built. In 2016, artists in Rio de Janiero were asked whether an aesthetics of respect can be designed, and what the implications are for the politics of the city. On each occasion, an open call invited interdisciplinary teams of people across the performing and visual arts, and the built environment disciplines to send in propositional responses.

Designing Politics, hosted by Theatrum Mundi in collaboration with LSE Arts, will formally launch on Tuesdasy 9 May at 7pm in The Atrium at the London School of Economics and Political Science. The exhibition is open to the public in the LSE Atrium Gallery until Friday 9 June; Mon-Fri 10am-8pm, Sat 12-5pm. 

For more information, visit or contact Elisabetta Pietrostefani at