Placemaking & placetesting

“First life, then spaces, then buildings – the other way around never works” – Jan Gehl

Our ambition is to make cities better. We do it through placemaking and placetesting. With respect for Gehl’s philosophy: keeping the wellbeing of people in mind, working closely with all key actors, and always focused on creating places of value.

Placemaking: lasting improvements

To attract residents, entrepreneurs and visitors, a neighbourhood must have a lot to offer: it needs to be a destination. Physical interventions aren’t enough to add lasting value to a place. A place must have a ‘soul’, be of value to those who use it, and serve their needs. The only way to achieve this is with the long-term participation of the local community. Bringing about lasting improvements is what placemaking is all about. It is often preceded by a place branding strategy that defines the identity of the place based partly on its history and partly on the future vision embraced and envisioned by the local community. What do current and new users need, and how does the space provide them with value? This placebrand serves as the basis for a well-conceived placemaking strategy. It’s the reason why, on every project, we work closely with all stakeholders – from (new) residents to visitors and from government to entrepreneurs – to unlock the unique DNA of the place, and the desires and dreams of the users. This is followed by embarking on the placemaking process and collectively mapping out ways to improve the space, and which activities and interventions are best suited to building its identity. We literally create the place.

Placetesting: dare to experiment

These days, the term placemaking is sometimes confused with short-lived initiatives: a neglected space is briefly transformed into a café terrace, a pop-up beach or a temporary museum. These plans are not anchored in the identity of the site, and often don’t fit the needs of its users. This is why, in early 2020, we introduced the term ‘placetesting’ as a countermeasure to these short-term projects. Placetesting hinges on testing the initiatives and ideas of entrepreneurs, residents and local social organisations and seeing which ones succeed. Again, this is based on the same principles: the uniqueness of the space, the needs of the users, and the future function of the space. Placetesting means daring to experiment, taking responsibility, not being afraid to fail and, above all: being willing to turn a successful initiative into something lasting. This yields a programme that dovetails with the identity of the site, the zeitgeist and users’ needs.

Stadspark Rotterdam

The pop-up city park on the Grotekerkplein is a great example of a successful placetest. Over the course of several summers, we took a forgotten city square and turned it into a lively, welcoming space with a dynamic programme. The municipality included feedback and data on the pop-up park’s use in the final design of the permanent City Park. But placetesting is also happening right now in Almere and Eindhoven. Keep an eye on our updates for the results.

For more info, read Rinske’s column on ‘placemaking inflation’.

Who for?

Municipalities, real estate owners, developers and placemakers who want to start experiments and dare to develop new business models. Are you interested in placemaking and placestesting? Contact us, let’s talk! We look forward to partnering with you.