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SCALE: BALANCE: layer: LOCALITY:

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People make the place. Without people creating an active environment, place does not happen. This was evident from the very beginning. We need a reason to go anywhere; What is your destination? However, having only one service, or one type of destination, without establishing connections with other spaces, results in an isolated environment and a shallow experience. By adding layers of different amenities, with different purposes, places gain depth; They gain complexity; They gain activity, and ultimately a more rewarding and enriching experience. Districts within cities have too strictly segregated building types with different functions. But, having a range of available destinations tightly stitched together begins to cultivate a more diverse community. How can we break free from the throws of tradition, and design cohesive communities rather than divided spaces?

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Ever since the nation realized the consequences that were chained to the concept of suburban sprawl, planners have tried many things to reverse the trend and make urban areas the vibrant center of activity they once were. Increased efforts in public transportation and affordable housing have helped, but as patience withers, we are still searching for ways to increase density exponentially faster. How can we transplant the attractions of suburbia (i.e. spacious, safe, quality of living) into the existing urban context?

Micro Urban environments layer many different destinations into a singular, dense, neighborhood. But, it is more than simply placing different buildings next to each other, as cities require a balance of both active and leisure space. We analyzed this concept by examining different building types, their proximity to one another, and influence on the local community culture. Unsurprisingly, the areas the were most memorable, and enriching, were also the areas that achieved the proper harmony between overlap and relief space (shown right). Communities with too much overlap create chaos, while no overlap results in divided communities, segregated by function. As people continue to return to the urban centers of the country, we must find a way to establish this balance, no matter the place.

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Arts District The complexity of the Arts District is born out of its nature. A former industrial area, many of the empty buildings have now been re-purposed for a wide array of functions. This community is not subject to more traditional zoning, because it has already evolved past that point, and now acts as a stage for experimental and innovative ideas in all fields. Some industrial buildings still serve their purpose, but mixed among them are apartments, specialty shops, and a vibrant nightlife. The Arts district is very successful at establishing a micro urban climate by connecting many different destinations in a singular, united community. Acting as a case study, we can determine that segregation between building types may have a negative effect on placemaking at the neighborhood level. Los Angeles’ Arts district can serve as a success story that other communities can attempt to emulate.

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Koreatown It is no surprise that the most dense neighborhood outside of New York City, stands as the epitome of complexity. With buildings packed tightly together, the built environment pushes the capacity of the infrastructure to its limit. As a result, there are several areas where many layers of building use overlap, creating a community that is always buzzing with activity from early morning to well past midnight. However, riding the wave of constant development has left Koreatown with no relief amidst the chaos; no negative space to take a breath. Green space is often talked about as an omnipotent catalyst that can shift the entire outlook of a neighborhood. But, many do not see much success in terms of use, because little critical thought went into the problem solving and design process. Koreatown is a community desperate for park space, establishing a more desired balance between active and leisure places.

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The Loop Chicago’s Millennium and Grant Park complex sit as a model of success in the combination of community culture, building diversity, and relief space. Going far beyond the basic functions of an urban park, the waterfront territory shares space with city icons, such as the Field Museum, Art Institute, the Bean, and the Grant Park concert venue. Chicago activates these green spaces with countless programmed activities to go along with an endless crowd of tourists. The park environment stands in direct contrast to the activity on the other side of Michigan Avenue. A shopping mecca, with every store imaginable. Ranging from Chicago favorites to brands with global recognition, this stretch of mixed use buildings is rivaled by few others in the world. The Loop has successfully built upon its rich history to establish a culturally informed community.

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16th Street Mall Through the lens of placemaking, the 16th Street Mall in Denver, Colorado, is an exercise in dichotomy. On one end, towards the southeast, chain stores have a stronghold on the market. On the other end, towards the northwest, the majority of space is dedicated to small, locally owned restaurants and boutiques. It is no coincidence that this is also where the most powerful sense of place occurs. Craft breweries, outdoor activities, and a burgeoning food scene capture the culture of Denver. With many more layers adding to he complexity and richness of the mall, spaces that are directly linked to the character of the community succeed where other attempts fail. Stores such as Chipotle and Starbucks continue to display the futility of global brands at creating rewarding places. These two different breeds of place meet at this pedestrian center, and one emerges decidedly as the victor.

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SCALE: BALANCE: LAYER: localiTy:

KU URBAN-SCIENTISTS

Scale, balance, and layers are quantitative, measurable. But, what distinguishes one place from the next is the lifeblood of successful placemaking: local culture. In order for a place to establish an identity, the local culture must be woven into every aspect of the design. Culture gives a place soul; It allows the character of the community to shine bright. Too many public spaces give no recognition to the history that has defined both the community and the lives of the people in it. When places ignore the qualitative aspects of a neighborhood that make it unique, the product is dull, uninspiring, and provides little benefit to the people who use it. The locality of a place is essential to the success of placemaking. In today’s connected world, how can we celebrate the local culture, while still creating places for all?

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Chicago

ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO

MILLENNIUM PARK

“Reborn from tragedy, Chicago has maintained its position as an essential American city; It’s influence knows no bounds between food, sports, and arts“ The city of Chicago is defined by its grandeur. Lake Michigan; Millennium Park; Willis Tower; Wrigley Field; These landmarks are popular attractions due to their monumental proportions and place in history. They help give Chicago a definitively more established sense of place, in comparison to its counterparts (Denver, Los Angeles). As the city has continued to stretch vertically, it still holds a strong sense of human scale, facilitating movement through its infrastructure. In particular, the Loop and Riverfront have become beacons of culture, attracting anyone looking to eat, learn, play, shop, and live. By layering in different activities, and stitching together unique spaces, Chicago has created a city that is welcoming to both residents and visitors.

DALEY PARK KU URBAN-SCIENTISTS

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Denver “Happiness is a way of life here and it’s little wonder, with a big blue sky, devotion to the outdoors, and liberal consumption of local thoroughfare.” Denver is a city that has yet to reach its full maturation. As a result, it is hard to pin down the exact cultural identity of the area, as even its residents are unsure of what it wants to become. Denver has become a host city to many transplants, both from other states and around the world. The mountains have certainly imbued an outdoorsy character to the people here. Concerts, hikes, skiing, and a wide array of sports are just a few ways that people interact with the outdoors around them. Recently, Denver has celebrated local businesses more than most cities with many small restaurants and craft breweries defining places in their community.

MOUNTAINS

CRAFT BEER

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Koreatown “With three generations of Korean and Latino immigrants, these once mean streets have become a picturesque and prosperous warren with a new sense of fun�

CHARACTER

KOREAN BBQ

DENSITY KU URBAN-SCIENTISTS

Much of the cultural identity of Los Angeles is built upon the foundation brought by immigrants from across the Pacific Ocean. There is still Korean characters on every storefront and even foreign advertisements on billboards. Despite the name saying different, Koreatown has evolved past its ethnic boundaries, with the majority of the community now Hispanic. In the most dense neighborhood this side of the country, food is a staple. Korean BBQ is a must for any visitor. Koreatown has succeeded in creating an inclusive, walkable, neighborhood for all people, but have they gone overboard? With constant development and change in demographic make up, Koreatown has left little space to catch your breath. Opportunities for placemaking abound in this crowded, packed, district. CHICAGO | DENVER | LOS ANGELES

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Arts District “Equal parts warehouse wasteland and burgeoning hub for LA’s young professional and creative, the Arts District is the city’s neighborhood to watch.” The Arts District is the new, fresh community, capable of changing the established landscape of Los Angeles. Home to the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SciArc), this neighborhood is a laboratory for students and graduates to test their innovative ideas and live out their passions. Boasting a wide array of food options and nightlife venues, the Arts District never seems to slow down. Where place succeeds most clearly here is in the small, human scale, intimate spaces. The theme of artists shaping the industrial environment to their own desires has established an identity for the area and the culture is evident everywhere.

SMORGASBURG

EVOLVED HISTORY

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opporTuniTy

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Earlier we established that the northern end of 16th Street Mall has the desired relationships, experience, and sense of identity desired in Denver, while the opposite end lacks activity and emphasis on culture. The weak residential presence also creates an issue of not having a constant pool of people to draw from, resulting in long stagnant periods of time. A resolution should seek to create more destinations on the southern end of the mall, creating an equity of attractions through its entirety.

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In this diagram we take that same section of unsuccessful places and imagine what a more successful installation could look like. There is a strong emphasis on residential property, completing the living community around the mall. By removing national chain stores, such as Jimmy John’s and Red Robin, there will be a greater draw to the local food options here and at the northern end. In place of a shopping mall, stores are placed that more closely cater to the Denver residents desires (skiing or hiking). This would even be a great spot to install an adventure complex, adding excitement to the identity of the mall. 16th Street Mall is designed to be vibrant at every moment and this would give people a reason to stick around all the time.

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As shown in the image on the right, Koreatown is crowded, chaotic, and saturated with activity. Although we should strive to achieve this level of complexity in our communities, it is also necessary to have an appropriate amount of relief space. In Koreatown, there is no relief in sight. The district is begging for green space. A place where people can step out of the craziness and take a break.

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As shown in the image on the right, Koreatown is crowded, chaotic, and saturated with activity. Although we should strive to achieve this level of complexity in our communities, it is also necessary to have an appropriate amount of relief space. In Koreatown, there is no relief in sight. The district is begging for green space. A place where people can step out of the craziness and take a break.

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Public space is a necessity in urban environments. We learned from previous research (see Authenticity) that these spaces are the stage where we establish many of life’s vital relationships, both person to person, and person to community. However, like the old saying goes, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. We realized this especially in Downtown LA, where they have an abundance of large and extra large scale spaces, when cities should only have a few dedicated for events. What can we do with these dead zones in the middle of cities in order to make them successful places?

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The best strategy to renovate these large scale spaces is to break them up into smaller parts. We learned earlier by looking at the Arts District that smaller, more personal spaces are the best at capturing the identity of a community. These four steps show how we can attempt to create that desired environment in a more developed area. Framing establishes clear boundaries to contain the space. Trees are used as implied barriers between the smaller parts, and allow people to connect with nature. Threading the parts together prevents the plaza from becoming segregated spaces instead of a social environment. Lastly, is forming the identity of each space, making unique destinations at every turn.

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.6 KU URBAN-SCIENTISTS

concluSion

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It is often tough to determine the difference between these two planning concepts. What makes placemaking seem like a solution while gentrification is almost always viewed as a problem? The difference lies in the motivation behind the two philosophies. Gentrification is guided by economic goals, capitalizing on the cyclical nature of the value of urban spaces over time. After improving the quality of a neighborhood, property values rise. Current residents are displaced when they can no longer afford to live in the newly established urban hub. Development and money lie at the heart of this process. Placemaking ceases to be placemaking when it stops acting in the best interest of those living and working in the area. As designers, it is our responsibility to make decisions with the genuine contribution of the community, and with the intent of solving their most urgent needs and wants.

KU URBAN-SCIENTISTS

CHICAGO | DENVER | LOS ANGELES


KU URBAN-SCIENTISTS

CHICAGO | DENVER | LOS ANGELES


As cities grow larger, both in population and built environment...

KU URBAN-SCIENTISTS

CHICAGO | DENVER | LOS ANGELES


KU URBAN-SCIENTISTS

CHICAGO | DENVER | LOS ANGELES


The influence of Placemaking is indeterminate, in that it is not measurable by traditional standards. However, this does not mean that the benefits are

not

tangible

in

the

targeted

communities.

Placemaking preserves history from being erased and maintains the cultural identity of spaces. It creates neighborhoods that are more inviting and livable. The most rewarding aspect of placemaking lies in the individual. Where most cities are planned around infrastructure,

placemaking

creates

culturally

distinct environments that are catered to people. They are of appropriate scale, balance, activity, and locality. If a place designed with intention can better the lives of those who use it, then it is successful. That is the goal; to make a person smile; breathe; laugh; and live. Placemaking encourages an enriched lifestyle that we all should strive to achieve.

KU URBAN-SCIENTISTS

CHICAGO | DENVER | LOS ANGELES

What is Placemaking...? (part 2)  

Gensler Internship

What is Placemaking...? (part 2)  

Gensler Internship

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