"My twitter stream is alive with the sound of placemaking," writes Chuck Wolfe. While preparing for this week's Placemaking Week in Vancouver, he explains the importance of PPS-led programming and hopes for various panels, proceedings and events.
Citing the increasingly popular twitter hashtag, #placemaking, Wolfe recounts the three initiatives that will unfold in Vancouver this week under the umbrella of the New York-based Project for Public Spaces (PPS), including events surrounding the PPS Placemaking Leadership Council, the Future of Places, and ProWalk/ProBike/Pro Place.
The common themes address how to create accessible urban places that are useful, meaningful and enjoyable to a full range of residents and visitors alike--qualities that help people decide where they really want to live.
Most clear, notes Wolfe, is a spirit of empowerment in how the public realm develops, always contrasting with "starchitecture," rigid design or top-down plans. For PPS, a carefully studied, bottom-up approach is often the secret sauce of successful urban places. The Vancouver proceedings are full of creative, equity-centered language and ideals, in direct preparation forthe United Nations' Habitat III Conference, which follows in Quito, Ecuador in October.
As he summarizes:
The placemaking movement is hitting stride, and its principles are embraced by a number of professional organizations---from architects, to planners, to new urbanists---under different labels but with similar livability goals. I'm not so interested anymore about who owns the ideas, or whether a design professional is needed to implement a livable city. While not a design professional, I am more concerned... that a place-based approach remains more than pablum, and truly honors the latent needs of urban inhabitants and the findings of those well-versed in the academic discipline of "place-attachment".
Wolfe concludes by referencing prior writing focusing on authentic "placemaking" with a purpose, including one-time events that crystallize potential alternative uses of urban spaces, and real neighborhood experiences that offer a meaningful gloss on how to make cities better and increase shared places for all:
Because I think success often emerges from urbanism that we already have--which is readily observable, and already there to be nurtured---I'll be going to Vancouver with an informal metric in mind: how many of the panels, proceedings, talks and strategies avoid immediate prescription without critical analysis? Will they remember to look first for what people have, want and need?
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