Considerations for Placemaking

Placemaking is an important consideration in designing so many private and public gathering places.  Here are some sensibilities to keep in mind as placemaking proceeds.

  • Foster an identity of the place – Like any product, a place with a distinct identity, a reason for being, tends to be more attractive for people.
  • Provide anchor activities – Anchor activities are necessary in creating a place of interest.   The anchor activities can be strongly commercial – such as dining and shopping, or even the “gather and stare” quality of a place.
  • Provide sufficient activities – Destination- quality gathering places have enough for people to do.    A palpable “complexity of place” achieved by there being “more than enough” to do may be the essential aspect of placemaking.
  • Keep “place memory” in mind – Naming conventions applied to a place are important, a place name and its “feature names” become part of each person’s memory map that is conjured up in a particular person’s mind when a destination is mentioned.
  • Event traditions are important – Recurring and special events create a community’s sense of tradition, and regard, for a place.
  • Provide interesting features – Unique features can be any manner of things – iconic structures, towers, monuments, public art, fountains, etc.   There are usually ample opportunities to integrate EASIL features in most destination places.
  • Make it comfortable – Comfort factors include easy access to restrooms and a pervasive sense of personal security.   When people feel secure and are comfortable they will linger if the place holds their interest.
  • Allow for seasonal adaptation – A gathering place should reflect the time of year, changing out merchandise offerings on carts, overhead banners, and the like.
  • Worry about the retail edges – Placemaking is enhanced by the strong retail rhythms of adjacent and approach zone retailers and restaurants.
  • Define a human scale to the edges – Architecture is part of placemaking; it becomes the backdrop, the setting, in which the guest experience occurs.   All else is “liner” to the architectural edge provided.   A human scale is important to people’s sense of a place’s attractiveness.
  • Monetize the place – An important aspect of placemaking is monetization of the place.   If the private and public sector “permanent” occupants of a place are making money, the place can be enduring.  If the place requires continual subsidies to remain interesting, over the long-term it will likely not succeed as a gathering place.