About the work

Millions of people experience cities as spaces of alienation. Consider the streets of São Paulo where luxury apartments sit side by side with dense favellas. Try to take the New York City subway system as a person with mobility challenges and end up going nowhere—fewer than a quarter of its stations are equipped with elevators.

The built environment is riddled with physical, psychological, and socioeconomic barriers, especially for people who are not part of the design process or are not considered by it. Whether through social isolation, lack of access to spaces, or economic disparity, the status quo for many is discomfort and frustration.

Who Is This For is a provocation to a more inclusive agenda in architecture. It seeks to evoke a visceral response that echoes the alienation felt every day as people live out their lives in cities all over the world. In its design, scale, and placement, it offers a code to decipher, a riddle to solve.

Turn a corner inside the Palazzo Bembo and encounter, close-up and side-on, a fictional city: a scaled composite of 11 global city grids stitched together to form one urban commons. Each grid has been chosen for its specific manifestation of inequalities in the urban realm—or, in a handful of cases, as a moment of organic hope.

Move closer, and the vibrant colour splashed into the work reveals stories of lived experiences. These perspectives offer snapshots of life in a city that is not welcoming.

Step back. Turn to face the work head-on, and the final piece of this composite city falls into place, the colour coalescing into a superimposed prompt: Who Is This For?

It’s a question that all designers ask in their work—but often answer far too narrowly or without much thought. It’s a question we need to ask better, to seek more and different perspectives, to consider and embrace more people, to become more inclusive, by design.

Who Is This For can be viewed at: