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Placemaking is a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces. Placemaking capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration, and potential, ultimately creating good public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness, and well being. Placemaking is both a process and a philosophy.

The concepts behind Placemaking originated in the 1960s, when writers like Jane Jacobs and William H. Whyte offered groundbreaking ideas about designing cities that catered to people, not just to cars and shopping centers. Their work focused on the importance of lively neighborhoods and inviting public spaces. Jane Jacobs advocated citizen ownership of streets through the now-famous idea of “eyes on the street.” William H. Whyte emphasized essential elements for creating social life in public spaces.[1]

Placemaking is a term that began to be used in the 1970s by architects and planners to describe the process of creating squares, plazas, parks, streets and waterfronts that will attract people because they are pleasurable or interesting. Landscape often plays an important role in the design process.

The writings of Wendell Berry, farmer and poet, have contributed to an imaginative grasp of place and place-making, particularly with reference to local ecology and local economy. He writes that, "If what we see and experience, if our country, does not become real in imagination, then it never can become real to us, and we are forever divided from it... Imagination is a particularizing and a local force, native to the ground underfoot." (This particular view of the imagination connects nicely to the work of Charles Taylor and his concept of the "social imaginary.") Place-making becomes political because place-identity is contested: individuals and groups have their own narratives of place. For example, the stories an indigenous group (their "place memories") will relate with regard to a particular valley will be very different than those of a multi-national corporation that has discovered oil there.

According to Bernard Hunt, an architect practicing in London:

We have theories, specialisms, regulations, exhortations, demonstration projects. We have planners. We have highway engineers. We have mixed use, mixed tenure, architecture, community architecture, urban design, neighbourhood strategy. But what seems to have happened is that we have simply lost the art of placemaking; or, put another way, we have lost the simple art of placemaking. We are good at putting up buildings but we are bad at making places.[2]

Similarly, at the Project for Public Spaces they opine, "As much as we prize creativity in cities today, the cultural centers that we’ve built to celebrate it rarely hit the mark. Culture is born out of human interaction; it therefore cannot exist without people around to enjoy, evaluate, remix, and participate in it. So why do our cultural centers so often turn inward, away from the street, onto an internal space that is only nominally for gathering, and is mainly used for passing through?" [3]

A journal on the subject, is Places: Forum of Design for the Public Realm. Places is about the design of places, the experiences they make possible and the consequences they have in our lives. Being in places involves social encounters, immersion in the sights, sounds, sun, wind and atmosphere of a locale, and curiosity about the traces of thought, imagination and investment that have guided their construction and use over time. The journal investigates the dynamics of nature and culture and the conscious stewarding of resources by fostering discussion in multiple voices, with strong imagery and language that is clear and accessible, crossing general interests, professions and scholarly disciplines. The focus is on places of public import and on designs and proposals that embody thought in ways that deserve public discourse and continuing attention.[citation needed]

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  1. ^ Dec 31, 2009 (2009-12-31). "What is Placemaking? | Project for Public Spaces". Retrieved 2012-08-15. 
  2. ^ "sustainable placemaking" - Keynote speech by Bernard Hunt of HTA Architects, 22 February 2001
  3. ^ Aug. 16, 2012 (2012-08-16). "Creativity and Placemaking | Project for Public Spaces". Retrieved 2013-01-09. 



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