Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Placemaking gives meaning to the space

*Prepared by Srinidhi Hariharan, intern at Centre for Public Policy Research

Placemaking is an approach to city planning where the citizens and the local community are involved in driving projects and events to bring the community together. It derives ideas from the local community and the neighbourhood in which the project takes place, so that the people living in the area are actively involved in the project.

Placemaking is about driving change in public spaces and involving people around a public space to understand and experience it through first hand exposure. It is a concept developed by William H Whyte and requires vision and group effort. 

An example of a placemaking project is one where the local community is involved in painting the surroundings to beautify public spaces, thereby providing a means to activate the public realm and encourage more people to come together and utilize the public space and express interest in improving their neighbourhood. Community based participation is the key to driving change and an effective way to promote people’s well-being and happiness.

Placemaking was the result of findings which showed that people have deep meanings and associations with the places they visit and gather on a regular basis thereby giving life to the concept of ‘place.’ For instance, when a person visits a garden for the first time, it might not be as appealing to him/ her compared to when he/ she visits it on a regular basis. There is no sense of attachment the first time a person visits a public space, as it is a ‘space’ of unfamiliarity.However, if the public space is well maintained and the person connects with it on the first visit, it is likely that they will continue to visit it on a regular basis. The public space has now become a public ‘place’ of deeper meaning for the person. Placemaking draws on this concept of ‘place’ to bring people closer to their public spaces.

Through placemaking, place attachment is formed which creates an emotional bond between the person and the place that they are attached to. Place attachment can varybetween people because it is reliant on unique personal experiences. However, when a person is attached to a place, it is likely that they will spread information about that particular public space, which will in turn increase the number of visitors and contribute towards the growth of the public space.

Many places which have been through urban degradation use placemaking to renew their cities and urban spaces.The Capitol Complex of Chandigarh which was built by Le Corbusier has acted as a very significant public space for the people of the city. The Urban Festival held in Chandigarh in 2018 was a sign of placemaking, albeit to a limited extent, as it was not completely organised by the community. During the Urban Festival 2018, the Capitol Complexwas well lit andheld many events initiated by the people of Chandigarh, thereby bringing them together. India needs more placemaking initiatives like this which will bring people together and also provide significance to the public space and its architecture.

The concept of placemaking is growing around the world as public spaces gain more recognition. Placemaking focuses on providing meaningful places to people where they feel comfortable and at ease. When the community involves itself in organising various events, theresult is a higher sense of pride and place attachment to the public space. As people continually utilize a space, the meaning and significance of the place increases, resulting in the creation of an emotional bond between the people and the public space. This is important if people want to make the most of their cities and the public spaces they provide. Placemaking has thus proven to engage and contribute towards activated places for the people.

* Views expressed by the author is personal and does not represent that of CPPR

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