Making space for places – Placemaking for communities
Think about the assets of the town where you live or like to visit. Waterfronts, walkable streets, green spaces, markets – these are all great examples. How about artists? Businesses? Community leaders…these people are also assets. And so are the residents who earn and spend money in the town. So are the young people who are deciding what to be when they grow up. So are the communities of people of different backgrounds who come together in cultural sharing.
How do these physical and human assets interact to make something greater than the sum of their parts? This is a consideration of Placemaking. According to the non-profit Project for Public Spaces (PPS), “…Placemaking inspires people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces as the heart of every community.” Public spaces that are vital centers of human activity build community. And in a vital community centered around “place,” the members of that community are given a sense of ownership in that community and their needs can be more reliably met.
In the words of PPS, “With community-based participation at its center, an effective Placemaking process capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration, and potential, and it results in the creation of quality public spaces that contribute to people’s health, happiness, and well being.”
It seems like common sense, yet we have needed clear voices to advocate for the idea of designing cities for people. It was revolutionary thinking during the middle of the last century to suggest maybe we should put the brakes on “progress” that placed cars and shopping centers at the center of urban design. The movement has had its heroes, such as Jane Jacobs. There is an extensive compendium of placemaking projects to serve as examples to emulate. And municipalities have seen the wisdom in reimagining their neighborhoods as “places” that thrive in their interaction between people and the natural and built environments. With continued emphasis on the concept of Placemaking, it looks like the future could be a pretty nice place to live.