Placemaking, Place Management and Place Activation are terms that are often used interchangeably. It is important to understand the differences as well as the similarities between the terms.
An Ethos and a Practical Approach to Improving Places
As both an overarching idea and a hands-on approach for improving a neighborhood, city, or region, Placemaking inspires people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces as the heart of every community.
Strengthening the connection between people and the places they share, Placemaking refers to a collaborative process by which we can shape our public realm in order to maximize shared value.
More than just promoting better urban design, Placemaking facilitates creative patterns of use, paying particular attention to the physical, cultural, and social identities that define a place and support its ongoing evolution.
The term placemaking is used in many different contexts and means different things to different people. Different professions also have different definitions of placemaking.
Project for Public Spaces created the term in the 1970’s, and therefore its original meaning should be the starting point of our understanding.
Placemaking is both an ethos and a practical approach to improving places. It focusses on collaboration, communication and connections and mutual responsibilities.
By definition, placemaking can’t be done by individual people or a department of government working in isolation.
Placemaking does not just involve experts and professionals. Everyone should have the opportunity to be involved. It promotes changes to culture and thinking as much as physical outcomes. Both are important.
Placemaking also works on the hardware and the software of a place concurrently.
Software and Hardware of a Place
Just like a computer, a place cannot work unless the hardware, software and programs integrate and get upgraded over time. They aren’t static.
The process and implementation of a place-led approach
Place management can be defined as:
A coordinated, area-based, multi-stakeholder approach to improve locations, harnessing the skills, experiences and resources of those in the private, public and voluntary sectors.
Place management is one the approaches that can help to address the challenges and ensure that the place thrives in the future.
A place management approach starts with appointing a place manager or leader, empowering that person or team and making them responsibility for coordinating, managing and improving the place.
As Project for Public Spaces highlighted, the current issue is that no person or department is responsible for creating a great place. It is therefore no surprise that places often struggle. The place manager’s role needs to be a ‘silo-breaker’ and provide place leadership, coordination and facilitation. They need to be empowered and supported in their role in order to be successful.
The Institute of Place Management in the United Kingdom says that the effective management of town centres and main streets makes a real difference to their vitality and viability and hence their sustainability. Effective management means that centres can better meet the needs of their communities and can remain relevant to them. This can help to combat the many threats traditional town centres now face. Online retail, the expansion of shopping centres and competition from other town centres around Perth present real and present challenges for town centres and small businesses.
The Place Management Model
A place manager can:
- Be a champion of the place-led approach
- Liaise with all internal and external stakeholders
- Improve internal processes to remove regulatory blocks and barriers and make it easier for internal staff as well as local businesses and residents to be placemakers
- Be made responsible for the oversight of projects
- Work with a support town teams
- Promote place marketing and economic development
- Build trust and confidence in the local government
- Get everyone working together and breaking down internal and external silos
The experiences and outcomes of placemaking
Place activation is the goal and (hopefully the) outcome of the placemaking and place management processes.
A place must have people in order to be “active” or activated. How to make a place active can be explored through the place making and place management processes.
As the P says; “Start with the petunias”, planting some cheap, colourful, flowers that brighten a space immediately, and they must be cared for which demonstrates that someone must be looking after the space. Seeing actual things happening on the ground, no matter how small, encourages the cynics to get on board with change; it’s not just another strategic plan that won’t show impacts for years.
People will not have trust and confidence in placemaking until they see results. PPS promotes a lighter, quicker, cheaper approach to place making, focussing on getting quick wins to build momentum. This approach can assist place activation.
The most cost-effective and powerful way for local governments to be placemakers and activate places is to allow it to happen rather than making it happen themselves.
This means local governments and communities need to be clear on their vision and goals. If the event or activity delivers on the placemaking goals, it should be approved as quickly as possible.
If the event or activity is contrary to the vision and goals, it should be not be permitted.
If the event or activity needs further consideration, this is where more time may be required to consider the opportunities and risks of the event or activity.
Having clear policies and guidelines, being well-coordinated and transparent is the best approach. The greatest risk is a silo-based approach to decision-making where each department has its own rules.
This more detailed understanding of placemaking, place management and place activativation highlights the need for a coordinated, place-led approach to decision-making, resourcing and budgeting.