I first heard the term “placemaking” at a professional conference a few years ago. I started with learning about the relationship between community attachment and positive economic impact and also about one of the core principles of placemaking, which is putting the voices of people in the community front and center in any discussion about development or re-design. From this little bit of knowledge alone I decided to integrate discussion of the concept into my macro practice class. It gave me some new and different tangible examples of community work for my students, which is helpful since sometimes community work can seem as airy as this cotton candy, bought in what happens to be one of my favorite places, Chicago.
This Ted-Talk on “Placemaking and Community” is a great introduction to the concept and the model: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sfk1ZW9NRDY and here is an overview from the Project for Public Spaces https://www.pps.org/article/what-is-placemaking. There is a diagram in that link called “What makes a great place?” that is useful for a discussion starter with students or community groups in starting to think about some of the variables in community assessment.
And, here is a more recent piece from the Brookings Institute on transformative placemaking https://www.brookings.edu/research/transformative-placemaking-a-framework-to-create-connected-vibrant-and-inclusive-communities/
Finally, here is a really Upstream podcast interview (https://soundcloud.com/upstreampodcast/mark-lakeman with Mark Lakeman, who is the founder of the City Repair Project, which has a focus on ecological justice placemaking (https://cityrepair.org/)
Placemaking at its basic is about collective vision, and people working together to make the collective vision of their shared values a reality. That makes us all place-makers. I think about some of the shared values espoused in Dr. King’s vision of the beloved community: that poverty, hunger and homelessness would not be tolerated, that racism would be replaced by an all inclusive spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood, that peace with justice will prevail over military conflict and war.
What am I doing to create the place of the beloved community?
The concept of placemaking also makes me think of one of my favorite Old Testament prophecies, from Isaiah 58:12: Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.