The Art and Science of Placemaking


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What is placemaking? What we do at Village Well, and some principles and tips.

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  • This is where most people say - what is placemaking? (I’ve explained my job to a lot of taxi drivers in my time)
  • When it comes to planning new places or revitalising existing places this is often looked as purely an urban design process presided over by designers, landscape architects, engineers almost like a kind of spatial puzzle. It’s become the domain of the specialist, of the professional. Kunstler accuses centralized systems of eliminating practically all the “middlemen,” people who were “members of local communities; they were economic participants in their communities; they made decisions that had to take the needs of their communities into account; they were caretakers of civic institutions, and they were employers.” Kunstler explains that we will have to res tore the place of these middlemen and move from a culture of quantity to a culture of quality, by re-localizing and downscaling what we do.
  • James H Kunstler “places that are not worth caring about” The Geography of Nowhere “ It is hard to imagine a culture less concerned than ours with the things that make life worth living.” “ The 20th Century was about getting around. The 21st Century will be about staying in a place worth staying in.”
  • The last half of the last century was all about the car, the mall, the business park, the new town. But now we are wanting to connect to something that feels more authentic. To rediscover the local, neighbourhood, connection, community.
  • Placemaking principles are generally a lot like common sense, because they’re based on the things we like and need and human beings, to demonstrate this, let’s start off with a little exercise. (Work with the person sitting next to you). You walk into this cafe. Where would you choose to sit? QA, the door in the back goes to the loos (the entrance to the café is behind the photographer), assume that there is no-one else in the café yet, but you expect more people to come soon. The tv is not on. The frame in the corner is just a picture – not a tv.
  • Did anyone choose this seat? No – why not? (discuss with the group) (because your back is to the door, you feel vulnerable)
  • Did anyone choose this seat? Why? Eg feels safer, back to the wall, no-one can sneak up on you but you can see the comings and goings. How you feel in a space relates to your most basic and most human instincts, e.g. to be social but also to be safe.
  • and some examples of where they do/don’t work well
  • People is the operative word (Vic Market – that’s my daughter Edie, kicked her shoes off and dancing to the music on the street – safe and joyous)
  • At its most simple local knowledge can tell you things like “this is the way everyone cuts through to the shops so you need a path and good lighting there”. To critical insights into what is important, what are the qualities that can provide a POD for a community in the region, what a community can build it’s economic life upon It can also be a source of amazing ideas (this photo is from Murray Bridge – the people are all community members - they just happen to all be wearing kharki)
  • At VW we talk about co-design - processes that allow people from multiple perspectives to input into the design process (Murray Bridge again – these young kids wrote a rap song about this process and feeling inspired and involved in the future of their community – and performed it to the whole community at the closing party)
  • This is an analogy we like to use at VW. When it comes to making this breakfast happen, the chicken is involved - it’s provided some eggs. But it’s the pig who is really committed. Thing/pair/share - Work with the person sitting next to you - imagine a new development within an existing suburb. Who will be the chickens - involved in the planning for a defined period of time and who will be the pigs - whose lives will be affected long-term by the decisions that are made? You need chickens to develop good places but you need pigs even more. Why are the pigs often the ones left out of the conversation?
  • Gilbert turned up in this community and they asked him to go away, said that they were sick of masterplanning, and sick of structure planning because nothing ever happened. Gilbert said, we’ll I’ve already been paid to be hear – how about I just listen? What emerged from that night was the decision to do no more planning! And Village Well’s first quick wins strategy took place! We ask the community – what can you do now with the money and resources that you have? (Don’t wait for other people for funding) We invite the community to act, and support them. Paynesville: Bendigo Bank ended up offering $10k, Council matched it. Community blitz: Men’s sheds built planter boxes, cleaning, artwork donated from the olympics, painting. Immediate actions - ideas and solutions provided by community and acted on by them. Made their area function better, is immediately obviously cared for. Real outcome was pride in place, sense of ownership and relationships – these are the basis for bigger long-term wins – and keeps the momentum going
  • Dead edges, nothing to look at (cold concrete benches) – great design aesthetically depending on your taste – but a terrible place Active, well programmed and well used
  • Not human scale – dead edges Human scale
  • Crown Casino is a very controlled environment – shiny but not loveable We need to get more comfortable with grit. Grit allows a place to evolve, promotes ownership and involvement over time
  • (Rouse Hill)
  • These things do not make you feel safer, they tell you you have something to fear. Tells you the area is not self-policed so must be policed from outside (Housing estate in the Gold Coast)
  • Get the lighting right – modulated inviting lighting – not floodlights that cause glare and dark shadows Warm and varied lighting
  • Program and activation – get the community there (my kids beg us to take them to Bunnings so they can get a sausage and talk to the friendly people serving them) No people. People. With sausages!
  • Three people in a street feels safe Two feels unsafe (eyes on the street – Jane Jacobs) Safe enough for dancing
  • Bryant Park NY - public open space in a massive city but everyone here feels like it’s their lounge room
  • Sometimes we get our priorities wrong - we think about things not people Bilbao Guggenheim is a beautiful object from the air or from a distance
  • But it’s disconnected from the city grid, making it feel separate and isolated and a sense of unease Muggings are much more common here than in the city
  • Blank and blind Even when the street is empty, you get a sense of activity and being overlooked which feels safer
  • Isolated from the street (if you need a sign to tell what is going on – it’s already failed) Part of the life of the street
  • A bus station in Sydney A bus stop in New York
  • Jane Jacobs challenged dominant urban planning theories: that neighborhoods should be isolated from each other; that an empty street is safer than a crowded one; and that the car represents progress over the pedestrian. She felt that the way cities were being designed and built meant that the general public would be unable to develop the social framework needed for effective self-policing
  • The Art and Science of Placemaking

    1. 1. So, what is Placemaking?“Sorry, you do what?” © Village Well |
    2. 2. Placemaking is not It’s as old as our towns and main streets new
    3. 3. Now making places is the work of professionals
    4. 4. It turns out We can be really crap at it
    5. 5. “The 20th Century was about getting around. The 21st Century will be about staying in aplace worth staying in.” James Howard Kunstler, 2004 © Village Well |
    7. 7. “It is difficult to design a space that will not attract people. What is remarkable is how often this has been accomplished.” William H WhyteThe problem is in the way we go about making places. Its our process © Village Well |
    8. 8. Three Pieces ofPlacemaking Advice © Village Well |
    9. 9. 01 Make places that are loved and owned by people (not cars, not marketing strategies, not engineers)
    10. 10. Local knowledge and ideas & solutions!
    11. 11. Ownership co-design
    12. 12. Partners who is the egg and who is the bacon?
    13. 13. Plan with communities not on behalf of communities:Paynesville Community blitz
    14. 14. Not loveable Loveable
    15. 15. Not loveable Loveable
    16. 16. Not loveable Loveable
    17. 17. 02 Make places that are active and feel safe
    18. 18. Plan for communities Less gates, lower fences, no CCTV or body corporate not just homes security guards
    19. 19. William H. Whyte “What attracts people most, it would appear, is other people.” © Village Well |
    20. 20. Not active Active
    21. 21. Not active Active
    22. 22. Not active Active
    23. 23. 03 Make places that feel connected
    24. 24. The tools we use can Plans, drawings, ACAD - not good at getting scale right cause problems
    25. 25. A beautiful object but disconnected from the city grid
    26. 26. Disconnected Connected
    27. 27. Disconnected Connected
    28. 28. Disconnected Connected
    29. 29. In conclusion:- Make places that are loved and owned by people- Make places that are active and feel safe- Make places that are connected © Village Well |
    30. 30. "Cities have the capabilityof providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody." Jane Jacobs-The Death and Life of Great American cities
    31. 31. Thank you © Village Well |
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