Public x Design

Public x Design is Gehl institute’s annual convening on public life.


What is public life? How do we ensure that it is inclusive, promotes well-being, and gets on the agenda of city governments? At Public x Design, practitioners and advocates gather from a range of professional fields to collaboratively address such questions. Over the course of the three-day convening, we conduct hands-on workshops, visits to dynamic public spaces around the host city, presentations by architects, city officials, and community partners, and keynotes by leaders in planning, public health, and design. Participants leave inspired and equipped with new tools to enhance social connections, build inclusive community, promote health equity, and strengthen the public stewardship of public spaces.

The first two years of Public x Design took place in Philadelphia; this September, we will be convening in Detroit. Learn more here.


Visiting Bartram’s Garden at the 2016 convening in Philadelphia.

Year 1: What is Public Life?

In 2016, the newly-formed Gehl Institute launched its first convening (originally titled Act Urban) in Philadelphia. Participants gathered to define what public life meant to them, with lively discussions about how public spaces are experienced by different city residents, and who has the power to shape which parts of the public realm. The keynote speaker was Jan Gehl, the acclaimed Danish urbanist to whom Gehl Institute owes its name.

Year 2: Setting a Public Life Agenda

With a working definition for public life, our 2017 Philadelphia convening outlined what it would mean to put inclusive public life on the agenda of cities. The program was geared towards unearthing the common challenges in operationalizing the shared values of participants. It included a mix of theory-building exercises, as well as on-the-ground experiences working with local leaders tackling ongoing, everyday challenges in the city. Ron Sims, former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, delivered the keynote on the importance of design in communities facing environmental injustices.



Year 3: From Inclusion to Equity

In September 2018, Gehl Institute will host its first Public x Design in Detroit, where participants will share best practices for inclusive city planning and participatory public space design. We are thrilled to learn from both Detroit city officials and community partners about the incredible work unfolding in the city, as well as participants from around the country and world. Schedule to be announced.

Registration is now open! Register for or sponsor Public x Design 2018 today.