Is it feasible that placemaking can be at the heart of everything we build? Of course it can – and, first we need to understand its importance and why it’s so integral. When it comes to the built environment we could be hitting a home run with every project we undertake. As stewards of our communities – planners, architects, developers, facility managers, engineers … we should all recognize the potential of placemaking. Doesn’t it make sense that we put people, place and connection first? Can we call ourselves Urban Innovators until we consider this approach?
Can you imagine a place where everyone is empowered to create and we’re not led or directed through planning processes that are not truly collaborative? How many times have we all attended community meetings where we are ‘told’ the plans for our public spaces and then, asked if we can agree? This is not community engagement!
Larry Beasley is the retired Co-Chief Planner for the City of Vancouver. He is now the Distinguished Practice Professor of Planning at the University of British Columbia. In a recent lecture by Mr. Beasley titled “Love as the Primary Force in the Economies of Cities – Equity of the Heart for Urban Success”, he delivers a message that we all need to hear loud and clear. He asks the golden question that we should all be asking in every building project we undertake. Are people going to fall in love with the place? Larry encourages each of us to consider fostering a genuine affection for our cities through placemaking. “Bring it back to the very heart of the civic agenda,” he says and “stop trading away the places we love.” In my opinion, the most powerful part of his lecture entices each and every one of us to help build places that will “romance the human heart.”
Times are changing says Lorne Daniel, one of the driving forces behind the Greater Victoria Placemaking Network in beautiful Victoria, BC. “Over the past couple years, placemaking has become part of the language of urban planning and community development in Greater Victoria – at least in Victoria and Saanich. Private contractors including architects, urban planning firms, landscape architects, and ‘change consultants’ are also adopting placemaking into their identities, their proposals and their work. Community non-profits have also got into placemaking. Some neighbourhood associations are now administering placemaking mini-grants and the Resilient Neighbourhoods group is rolling out a set of workshops in six neighbourhoods, with placemaking as a key project area. This widespread interest in placemaking is great – it’s quite a change from even a few years ago.”
Fact is that many of the most successful placemaking projects around the world are citizen-led. Why, you ask? They are heartfelt! As author TKV Desikachar writes, “when the heart prevails, something radiates from us and affects the results of our actions. We seem to expand and influence the things around us and the people we meet. Although we are still seeking, something mysteriously acts through us and determines the influence of our actions upon our environment.”
Placemaking with purpose, let’s make this our new planning agenda.