The Power of Place Making in the Urban Landscape
I recently had the good fortune of representing DLR Group at the Project for Public Spaces: Place-making Leadership Forum, in Vancouver, British Columbia. There I presented the City of Seattle's efforts to re-imagine the Seattle Waterfront, the public private partnership opportunities represented in this effort and the importance of investing in community not-for-profit activities connected to such development. The discussion focused on our commitment to raise the level of discourse and engage a community of investors, developers, businesses, and residents in a conversation around how equitable development will serve a broad base of stakeholders and make for successful private development.
Understanding the meaning of place-making in contemporary culture and contemplating how meaningful spaces serve the public good always requires a diverse dialogue of public and private partnerships, both formal and informal. This conversation is vital to the future development of all urban cityscapes if we are to be good stewards of great places, whether it be a grand downtown plaza or humble neighborhood park. Such place-making spaces share four key attributes:
- It must be accessible through a variety of public transportation modes reaching a diverse group of citizens, connecting to other important places or venues in the area.
- It must be walkable, sit-able, attractive, safe, comfortable, and clean using measurable data and stats based on local measures of excellence.
- It draws people to participate in activities as a destination place where people like to gather again and again for purposes of social connection, volunteerism, cooperative events, street life, healthy living.
- It celebrates its unique identity through use of open space, culture, architecture, art, commerce, wayfinding and other elements to create a sense of belonging and community stewardship within a city, neighborhood or region.
As our cities and populations continue to grow, the challenge becomes one of balance: Build denser and equitable cityscapes while also driving down the carbon footprint. This balance will only be attainable, manageable and accepted when the human need for place-making is honored and respected through thoughtful and memorable spaces where communities are encouraged and invited to live active, healthy, vibrant, lives.