Public Domain

The norms and beliefs of the dominant culture form the realities of our public spaces and the public spaces in turn fortify these structures in our daily lives. The perceptions and realities of safety and inclusion within the public realm dictate the use of public spaces for everyone, but especially outgroups within the given space, limiting their autonomy and safety within these spaces.

Within the rural realm, there are many fewer clearly defined public spaces, and due to the tight kinship structures that occur within these communities, these spaces are particularly difficult to navigate as a social outsider or marginalized person. This, coupled with the relative remoteness, longstanding socio-economic challenges, and plethora of stereotypes has led to a fear and avoidance of contact with the rural, ultimately serving to exacerbate distrust on both sides.

Through rethinking a key hub of the rural landscape, the gas station, this thesis interrogates how design can engage inclusion, safety, and right to the public sphere for all users. As one of the only landmarks frequently used by non-community members, the gas station holds the potential to bridge use, communication, and culture between community members and visitors. By reconceptualizing what the gas station program, form, and reach might be, the project will seek to create an environment that allows for better use by community members and direct engagement with the rural community in order to create a safer, healthier space with increased access for all users.
Faculty Advisor:
Julia McMorrough