Placemaking – community inclusion in building vibrant public spaces

Currently, there is a greater awareness of people for the importance of spaces and their impact on the day-to-day and the well-being of their users.


Have you heard about Placemaking?


Placemaking goes far beyond the requalification of public spaces and is considered a process that aims to transform and improve a given place to benefit the local community and, consequently, the city. In this context, today’s article explores this concept so that the real estate sector, namely developers and builders, become aware of its importance and applicability in their projects, including values such as connection, sustainability, and community inclusion. in a genuine way.


This approach thus seeks to bring public spaces to life and make their places of inspiration and connection between people, ideas and aspirations, presupposing the participation of the community. In this involvement, quality public spaces are created that contribute to health, happiness and well-being, functioning, in many cases, as a kind of social support network that helps to instil a sense of belonging to a group. This process can occur by implementing small projects/activities or large-scale projects/activities.




The idea we now call Placemaking began to be developed around the 1960s by Jane Jacobs. They criticized “soulless” urban growth and encouraged citizens to take ownership of the streets through innovative ideas to create movement and dynamism. Throughout the day, they were promoting collective life. In this follow-up, William H. Whyte, around the 70s, highlighted certain vital elements that enable a stimulating social life in public spaces, among which, he addressed the importance of places to sit, the existence of food and the relationship of areas with the street.


These authors, pioneers of urbanism, who inspired the creation of the non-profit organization Project for Public Spaces (PPS) in 1975, and who in 1990 spoke for the first time of the Placemaking concept.

According to this organization, it is essential to understand and listen to those who use, play, live, work in a space, thus creating a shared vision of the place; that is, it is necessary for those who design to assume two positions: looking from the outside and letting themselves be involved.

Through several studies, the PPS developed a diagram that helps to qualify a given public space based on the following principles: accessibility and connection; comfort and image; uses and activities; sociability.





To better understand this concept, we leave the story of Lily Yeh, an artist who was born in Taiwan, China, and moved to the USA to study at the School of Fine Arts, becoming an art teacher at the Philadelphia School of Fine Arts.

In 1986, as a tour guide for Chinese artists, Lily took a group to the studio of dancer Arthur Hall in North Philadelphia, who asked for help revitalizing a particularly run-down area of ​​the neighbourhood. Shocked by the state of the streets, Lily wasn’t sure where to start, but she knew something had to be done to breathe new life into the place. So she started picking up the trash, which caught the attention of resident children who wanted to know, she recalls, what “that crazy Chinese woman” was up to. Then, the parents watched the artist, who realized that she had some collaborators there for what would become the essential art project in her life. In a short time, the entire neighbourhood cleaned the area, painted murals, and created an “art park” that became the community’s pride.




Utilizing the principles of Placemaking, Lily Yeh launched a far-reaching project that gave the neighbourhood a new purpose. Yeh founded The Village of Arts and Humanities from that project, which annually serves more than 10,000 disadvantaged youth and families in North Philadelphia. Three decades later, the small art park founded by Lily Yeh and the neighbourhood community has become a symbol of renewal, encompassing more than 120 previously abandoned plots of land, with murals, gardens, mosaics, parks, gardens, playgrounds, for shows, basketball courts, art studios and even a plant nursery. Six buildings were rehabilitated and transformed into workplaces, with residents trained in areas linked to civil construction. A daycare centre was opened, and the abandoned houses were renovated.


Finally, it is worth noting that in the light of Placemaking, cities need places that give them identity and beauty and help attract new residents, businesses and investments. Squares, parks, museums, markets, gardens with comfortable benches, community gardens, bike paths can be options. It is essential to observe, listen and ask questions to the people who live, work and play in a given place so that their needs and aspirations for that space and their community as a whole can be understood, strengthening the connection between the people and the places they live in share.

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