Urban Planning and Placemaking

As both a hands-on approach and an overarching idea for improving cities, neighborhoods and regions, placemaking inspires people to collectively reinvent and re-imagine public spaces. It strengthens the connection between communities and shared spaces, thereby shaping public opinion and promoting the maximization of shared value.

What is Placemaking?

Placemaking, according to the Project for Public Spaces (commonly abbreviated as PPS), is the “art of creating public places of the soul to uplift and help connect people to each other.” Alternatively, it can also be defined as the “breathing a new lease of life in public spaces”.

Placemaking and Urban Planning

Apart from promoting better urban planning and design, placemaking also facilitates the creative patterns of use. It also pays particular attention to the social, cultural and physical identities that define a space while supporting its ongoing evolution.

At its core is community participation. To this end, placemaking capitalizes on the potential, inspiration and assets existent in a local community. As a result, it leads to the creation, by communities and urban planners, of higher-quality public spaces which contribute to the peoples overall well-being, happiness and health.

In general, therefore, placemaking motivates urban planners to make spaces where people will want to come whenever they wish to escape their busy lives; places where people can spend time enjoying the space and each other while taking in the sights and the nature.

Placemaking and the Community

Placemaking also empowers local communities to build each other up and feel a sense of belonging in. Susan Silberg, working with the DUSP research team, reports that “placemaking is interactive. It promotes community participation while expanding the ways through which communities can share in creating that all-too-elusive sense of belonging through urban planning.”

Placemaking: Principles and Plans

Today, placemaking revitalizes communities especially in urban areas where the urban density is more concentrated than in rural areas. It enables communities:

a) Integrate diverse opinions and combine them into cohesive visions

b) Translate such visions into programs and plans of uses

c) Ensures the sustainable and affordable implementation of said plans

To turn shared visions into reality requires patience in the taking of small steps, listening truly and seeing the best solution within particular contexts. While community input is a requirement in any placemaking process, there is need for a mutual understand of the various ways in which public spaces benefit multiple initiatives and stakeholders and foster successful social networks at once.

Case Study: Vancouver

Vancouver used to suffer from urban flight. The government decided to consciously improve the business district. Urban planners have, over the years, worked to make Vancouver more vibrant. Today, people still prefer to stay downtown even after work. Why? Because the effects of placemaking have created things to do, ensured there are people to see and places to go. These days, Vancouver boasts public events, parks and street cafes. The transit hubs also make movement across the city faster and more convenient without being affected by the growing urban density.

In conclusion, therefore, placemaking only works when communities give their input, decide on the best way to use public spaces and rely on professional urban planners to create livable and breathable public spaces for the enjoyment and benefit of all peoples, now and into the future.


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