An introduction in Placemaking

Thursday, 9 February 2017

by: Sacha Oerlemans

Public space is more than just a pleasant amenity in our towns and cities, it is an important connection between our homes, businesses, institutions, and the rest of the world. It’s where we bump into each other and wave hello.

Public space is for expressing out highest aspirations, while simultaneously encompassing the most essential utilities and infrastructure. In recent years, the importance of public space has grown in the eye of planners, designers, and the public, and the concept of “placemaking” has come to the forefront of many urban centers.

Placemaking is a people-centered approach to the planning, design, and management of public spaces. It involves looking at, listening to, and asking questions of the people who live, work, and play in a particular community to discover their needs and aspirations. This information is then used to create a common vision for that place. Small-scale, simple improvements result from this vision that can immediately bring benefits to public spaces and the people who use them.

Places that fulfill these visions are the greatest expressions of thoughtful design. And they need not be grand in scale or scope in order to be great. The Project for Public Spaces (PPS), a non-profit promoting placemaking, asserts that most great places, whether a grand downtown plaza or humble neighborhood park, share four key attributes:

  • They are accessible and well connected to other important places in the area.
  • They are comfortable and project a good image.
  • They attract people to participate in activities there.
  • They are sociable environments in which people want to gather and visit again and again.

PPS also describes a philosophy of “The Power of 10+” – the notion that cities of all sizes should have at least 10 destinations where people want to be in order to attract new residents, businesses, and investment, as well as the people who already live there.

Placemaking The power of 10

A destination could be a downtown square, a main street, a waterfront, a park, or a museum. That place, in turn, should have 10 places in it. As an example, a public square could offer: a café, a children’s play area, a place to read the paper or drink a cup of coffee, a place to sit, somewhere to meet friends, and so forth. Within each of the places, there should be at least 10 things to do: walk a dog, play in a fountain, get lunch, feed the birds, etc.

By layering destinations, places, and activities, complex spaces are created that will draw a wide range of people to an area.

They have eleven “Principles for Creating Great Community Places” for people who are involved in design and other disciplines related to placemaking to refer to.

  • The community is the expert
  • Create a place, not a design
  • Look for partners
  • They always say, 'It can't be done'
  • You can see a lot just by observing
  • Have a vision
  • Form supports function
  • Triangulate (Triangulation is the process by which some external stimulus provides a linkage between people and prompts strangers to talk to other strangers as if they knew each other - Holly Whyte)
  • Experiment: lighter, quicker, cheaper
  • Money is not the issue
  • You are never finished

Source; Sustainable Cities Collective