Urban designers and their design process remain largely outside the literature on public space. Either designers are cast as simple tools of capitalist social relations, producing exclusionary public spaces, or they figure as entrepreneurs that complement economic renewal schemes through beautificationmeasures that bring business and jobs to the city. This paper analyzes both of these arguments, through an ethnographic analysis of the urban design process behind the redevelopment of a public square in Syracuse, NY. I argue that aesthetic considerations most often derive from economic and political pressures, pressures that draw upon the social contexts of urban designers within an international division of labor and their relationship to class struggle. Because public space serves such an important role in political and social life, its status as a product of urban design should therefore act as a crucial component in any discussion of rights to the city.
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