What is Placemaking?

“Placemaking is a process to increase the capacity and capability of people to invest a place with meaning” – Place Agency.

As an international movement, placemaking belongs to everyone. Placemaking is in the business of making vibrant, healthy and thriving communities. At its core it’s a process of co-creation to work with community, for community, and to identify meaning and shared purpose. Generally, placemaking can be understood as a community building and activating process to create places that are loved, cared for, and where a sense of belonging in that place is fostered and shared throughout the community. It follows the adage that if you love a place, you will take care of a place.

The process of co-creation, finding a shared purpose

So what is a place? Where is it? We see places as alive. Places can be homes, streets, parks, creeks, or Sunday markets. Some places don’t change much over time, others are constantly changing and evolving or only temporarily existing. Every place is unique and people’s attachment, sense of belonging and meaning will differ individually based on their experiences, memories and shared stories.

Place has a constellation of different meanings and is very much an old but evolving idea. Place is not just a physical and tangible space or organisation but the unique expression of life that is realised in these places. In this way, place is more than the individual and social fabric of an area but importantly the co-habitation with the rest of life; the plants and animals who also belong to the same places we inhabit.

Placemaking has come to be a community and city making tool. With a concerted focus on the public realm, placemaking has caught the imagination of professionals and community alike who are passionate about creating vibrant, liveable and thriving city spaces. It is seen as a way to activate both the heart and mind, to generate a field of care around a place and to inspire people and communities to be the stewards of the place they inhabit. As such, placemaking is about your relationship to places, your relationship to other people in the community and your relationship to the land and other life that co-inhabits a place. By creating such social cohesion and connections to place, placemaking is linked to positive outcomes in health, community participation, civic behaviour and perceptions of safety.

For Place Agency, we see the immense potential in placemaking. Underpinning place agency’s framework of placemaking is the ‘4 dimensions of place’. Importantly, the 4 pillars of place address two issues identified in common placemaking practice; that is, a failure to acknowledge and include nature’s place in our cities and communities, and the need to focus on the quality of relationships between each dimension. Without a wholistic understanding of the true complexity of place and all its human and non-human stakeholders and connections, the success of placemaking can be limited.

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