Mission Possible – Pick-up After My Bestie

Defining Placemaking

At the very heart of placemaking is a simple concept: it’s a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design, and management of public spaces that capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration, and potential, ultimately resulting in the creation of quality spaces that contribute to people’s health, happiness, and well-being.

Placemaking is about turning a neighborhood, town, or city into a canvas for communal artistry. It’s not a top-down approach dictated by planners and developers; it’s a collaborative process that empowers everyone to contribute their voice and energy.

The Roots of Placemaking

The story of placemaking is a tapestry woven from many threads, each a different color, representing diverse ideas and movements. Its history can be traced back to the 1960s, born from the advocacy of urban writers and thinkers like Jane Jacobs and William H. Whyte, who championed the idea of designing cities for people, not just cars and commerce.

Jacobs’s seminal work, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” criticized the impersonal nature of urban planning in the mid-20th century and laid the groundwork for what would become the placemaking movement. She stressed the importance of community-centric urban design, advocating for vibrant, mixed-use neighborhoods.

Whyte followed a similar path, employing observational methods to understand the interaction between people and their environment. His insights into the social life of small urban spaces helped to cement the idea that successful public spaces are those that are loved and used by the people.

Evolving through Time

Placemaking has evolved significantly since its early days. It began to take shape in the 1970s and 80s with initiatives like Project for Public Spaces (PPS), which worked to apply the principles laid out by Jacobs and Whyte into practical urban development projects around the world.

As environmental concerns and sustainability became more pressing, placemaking began to intertwine with green urbanism, leading to a focus not only on social and cultural factors but also on the ecological health of urban environments.

In recent decades, the placemaking movement has blossomed into a global phenomenon, sparking community-driven projects and city-wide initiatives that seek to empower citizens and create spaces that reflect the unique character and needs of their inhabitants.

Legacy and Continuing Influence

The legacy of placemaking is evident in the transformation of spaces from Paris’s “Les Berges” to New York’s High Line, where abandoned or underused urban areas have been reinvented as vibrant, inclusive, and dynamic public spaces.

Today, placemaking continues to inspire urban innovation, embracing new challenges and opportunities such as digital technology’s role in public spaces, and the need for cities to be resilient in the face of climate change and other global pressures.

This module will take you through this rich history, exploring how placemaking has shaped and been shaped by the broader narrative of urban development. As you journey through the annals of placemaking, you’ll gain a profound appreciation for this transformative approach to creating spaces that are not merely occupied but truly lived in and loved.