All eyes have been our public space has been in in recent years. Besides parks and squares, ordinary streets and pavements are now seen as a vital part of public space. This changing approach has brought about a transformation in our cities. Hand in hand with this shift, the concept ‘placemaking’ has made enormous strides. Placemaking is a way to give a distinctive character and spirit to a particular building or region. As Fred Kent (founder of Projects for Public Spaces) puts it:
‘Placemaking is turning a public space from a place you can’t wait to get through, to one you never want to leave.’
With a pop-up urban park on Rotterdam’s Grotekerkplein, we turned an unloved part of the city into an attractive place to be.
This is particularly crucial in a time in which cities – and places within them – are increasingly competing for attention. People are more mobile than ever, and have a great choice of places available to them. Today, a place must have something special to offer if it wants to engage the interest of locals, visitors and businesses. Physical interventions alone aren’t enough to turn a place into a ‘place to be’. To beat the competition, a place must effortlessly meet the needs of its users and, most importantly, be relevant to them. For us, placemaking is inseparably bound up with place branding. After all, if a place holds no relevance for the user and has nothing to set it apart from its rivals, you don’t have a strong brand.
Why opt for placemaking?
Whether a project seeks to revitalise derelict land or unused buildings, or create a pop-up urban park, placemaking is all about creating added value for the users and the environment. In cooperation with locals and other parties involved, designing the public space is all about creating a place where people want to spend their time. This makes placemaking a dynamic ingredient in place branding, even before the site has completed its grand transformation.
As you can see, placemaking is interwoven with marketing. Because, for a place or building to win people’s hearts and minds, it must be – or be on the way to becoming – a place that holds meaning and relevance for them. A place that acts like a magnet. In our exhaustive place branding trajectories, we also set aside scope for placemaking – sometimes a very small-scale or very temporary project, sometimes a large, semi-permanent intervention.
What’s our approach?
Many of the areas we work in contain stretches of public space in dire need of extra love and attention. Turning such places into fantastic spaces doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. And doesn’t have to happen at an A-list location, either. In fact, the most incredible places were created on limited budgets, and in the most unexpected locations. When involved with large-scale placemaking trajectories, we work with specialist partner agencies.