ENTRY #601

Cross Speaker by Nan Lei


Identify a public space

Keys to free speech

1. Face to Face – Emphasize physical engagement of speakers and listeners here and now.

2. Everywhere – Not restricted to some certain place, all free to access

3. Everyone – Open to anyone, no censorship, free to recording and gathering.

4. Eventive – Emphasize the significance of the moment of the speech, and give people a reason to stop to listen.

5. Emblematic – Recognized as celebration related to specific time and place.

In spirit of the points above, the ideal space that meets all the creeds could only be the crossroads in Manhanttan. In one way they are the most common places in everyday life, as there is a crossroad within every hundred meters. In another way, they are the place where people all obey the rules of STOP/GO. Crossroads are places of passers-by, people brushing past each other at every second. What if there is a reason for them to stop and listen to someone?

The magic is in the signal lights, as simple as this. Signal lights are direct translation of rules. Conversely the images on the lights become the rules. To make the moment an effective speech stage, the only thing is to change the rule and accordingly the signal light.

View the Current Space

Design Proposal

We will make the free speech at the crossroads a celebration in New York, which happens every week.

By changing the program of the signal lights, we can stop the vehicle and the crowds with a new free-speech signal. This creates an ideal stage for a short term speech.

To get onto the stage, the intended speaker can simply get a reservation online.

We are taking advantage of the significance of the crossroad space, where the engagement of people can be stimulated at little expense and most effectiveness.

We are also taking advantage of the freedom of the Internet. People will register on our website and then will be able to reserve a spot online. Currently on the internet, everyone can advocate their own opinions freely. But this is more or less like a considerate talk as people are not actually engaged at the very moment, face to face, body to body.

The crossings are very specific spaces related to everyday life as well as the history of the city. Also the free crossing is not a specific location for the speakers. It can happen at every crossing, which means everywhere, as long as all of the lights turn red and a well-marked loudspeaker shows up.

View the Design Proposal


1. Every Saturday at noon, Mahhattan will have a special celebration for free speech. The network of the crossings is to be transformed into a network of free speech.

2. People from everywhere can make a reservation online for a five-minute speech at any one of the crossings in Mahhattan.

3. After the reservation, a red loudspeaker with “free speech” mark will be mailed to his house, with a deposit.

4. A specific signal of a red speaker will be add in the traffic light system. Once all of the lights in the crossing turn red, all vehicle stop and the speech time begins!

5. The speaker just need to stand in the center of the crossing, and make the full use of the five-minute period with the red loudspeaker to express his own opinion to the public, without any restriction. He is also free to gather his own crew, or have helpers sending out leaflets, etc.

6. The speaker is responsible to clear the site at the end of the time.

7. Interested people can then follow the speaker to some other place for further speech or discussion if they want to.

8. The speaker should mail the loudspeaker back within a week.


Nan Lei (IAO-Architecture, China)

A subtle intervention, a small daily change can make a huge influence. Everyone has his right to advocate and express.

IAO architecture endeavors to pursue:
the architecture with its specificity towards time and place;
the cultural relevance towards traditional Asian aesthetics;
the retrospect towards daily experience.


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