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| PLACES IN THE MAKING

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

focused on front-end community engage-

there is little doubt that the democratic

reflection of our increasingly complex

ment and the initial creation of a place to

ethos of the movement has rubbed off on

times. The goals of building social

the detriment of the “continuous place-

the placemaking practice as a whole. The

capital, increasing civic engagement

making” allowed by programming. What

“trickle-up” nature of tactical urbanism

and advocating for the right to the

happens when the designers go away—the

demonstrates the growing influence of an

city are as central to contemporary

maintenance and planned activities of a

Internet-influenced model where posi-

placemaking as are the creation of

place—deserves equal attention. Pro-

tive change can happen in real time and

beautiful parks and vibrant squares.

gramming is placemaking and because it

everyone is empowered to be a maker.

Leading placemakers around the coun-

involves a much lower barrier to entry, a

try have known this for some time and

broader community of individuals can be

the importance of process over product

involved with minimal investment.

that cannot be overstated—and it is pushing the practice to a broader audience and widening its potential impact. Photo courtesy of Project for Public Spaces

The recent resurgence of temporary,

ing that does a disservice to the ways

moreover, a common rather than an

all feel at home and comfortable.”3 The

the placemaking process nurtures our

individual right since this transfor-

“making” process and interaction found

communities and feeds our social lives.

mation inevitably depends upon the

in public places also provides what

The importance of the placemaking

exercise of a collective power to re-

urban sociologist Richard Sennett terms

process itself is a key factor that

shape the processes of urbanization.

“social friction,” which is the interac-

has often been overlooked; today,

The freedom to make and remake our

tion between different groups of people

the most successful placemaking

cities and ourselves is, I want to argue,

who would otherwise not meet.4 Social

initiatives transcend the “place” to

one of the most precious yet most

friction supports civic discourse, social

forefront the “making.”

neglected of our human rights” 2

equity, and healthy societies.

event-based, and tactical initiatives celebrates community process, deliberative discussion and civic collaboration with a lesser focus on the production of space. “Placemaking empowers community through the “making ” process; the iterative actions and collaborations inherent in the making of places nourish communities

Another challenge to the top-down,

Agile places: the rise and influence of tactical urbanism.

product-focused placemaking of the past is the growing prevalence of public/

Tactical urbanism, usually low-cost,

private partnerships in the practice.

unsanctioned, and temporary additions

These partnerships can be built on a

to the built environment, has caught the

number of different models that mix

recent attention of policymakers, plan-

regulatory power and public ownership

ners, artists, and community members

with private resources and efficient

alike. Tactical projects can be remark-

management to create and maintain

ably effective in remaking a public

well-run places that would not other-

space quickly and cheaply while calling

wise be possible. The placemaking field

attention to the need for better place-

has expanded to include the private

making on a larger scale. While it is clear

sector, as well as public agencies, non-

that not every project can be tactical,

profits, foundations, and individuals,

This mutual stewardship of place and

The Cases

community is what we call the virtuous cycle of placemaking. In this mutual relationship, communities transform places, which in turn transform communities, and so on. At the most basic level, the act of advocating for change, questioning regulations, finding funding, and mobilizing others to contribute their voices

The fact that placemaking happens in

These urban theorists, as well as others,

for people to collaborate, deliberate,

public spaces, not corporate or do-

laid the foundation for complex thinking

disagree, and act—providing a host of

mestic domains, is a key component to

about placemaking. While the place is

benefits to communities and offering

its impact on cities and communities.

important, the “making” builds con-

a critical arena in which people can lay

Communities exercise their “right to the

nections, creates civic engagement, and

claim to their “right to the city.” As

city” in public places. Urban sociologist

empowers citizens—in short, it builds

Ray Oldenburg describes these public

social capital. In his seminal 2001 book,

places as “third places” which are nei-

Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam defined

Programming: The making is never finished.

“The right to the city is far more

ther home nor work and he stresses the

social capital as “the connections among

While the mainstream of placemaking

than the individual liberty to access

importance of this “neutral ground upon

individuals—social networks and the

never advocated for a “design it and leave

urban resources: it is a right to change

which people may gather…in which none

norms of reciprocity and trustworthi-

are required to play host, and in which

ness that arise from them.”5 The field

it” approach, the practice in the past has

ourselves by changing the city. It is,

philosopher David Harvey writes,

The new collaborators: public/private partnerships.

and empower people.”6

This “making” provides opportunities

1

3

has grown and these changes are a

in today’s placemaking is a key point

Campus Martius, Detroit, MI

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engages communities – and in engaging,

Corona Plaza: Queens, NY Better Block: Norfolk, VA Guerrero Park: San Francisco, CA PRECEDENT MINI-CASE:

Project for Public Spaces, New York, NY

Eastern Market: Detroit, MI PRECEDENT MINI-CASE:

Bryant Park, New York City, NY

leaves these communities better for it.

City Repair Cleveland: Cleveland, OH

This increased importance of process over

Shreveport Common: Shreveport, LA

product is highlighted by the major trends found in today’s placemaking efforts:

Fargo/Moorhead StreetsAlive: Fargo, ND and Moorhead, MN TAXI: Denver, CO PRECEDENT MINI-CASE:

Playborhood, Menlo Park, CA

Kentlands: Gaithersburg, MD Discovery Green: Houston, TX

Places in the Making: Executive Summary  
Places in the Making: Executive Summary  
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