Placemaking is a common cause which draws people together to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces as the heart of their community. Strengthening the connection between people and the places they share, “placemaking” offers a collaborative process by which we can shape our public realm in order to maximize its value to everyone. More than just promoting better urban design, placemaking facilitates more satisfying patterns of public use by paying particular attention to the physical, cultural, and social identities that define a place and support its evolution.
Too often, the importance of placemaking falls between the cracks of disparate disciplines, sectors, and philanthropic agendas. We know the best solutions solve many problems — as is the case with placemaking, which plays a crucial role in promoting public health, public safety, affordable housing, social inclusion, economic development, sustainability, reducing the impacts of climate change, and instilling a strong sense of community.
Place is not just another competing cause — it can be a means through which we more fundamentally address otherwise distinct problems and opportunities. This shared focus shifts our human relationships, our patterns of urbanization, and our collective capacity to address challenges on multiple scales. As a result, the way we shape our communities can touch people’s lives in a multitude of ways. That is why the policies, disciplines, and norms that shape public space present such catalytic impacts.
We are at a point in time where social, political, economic, and environmental issues are converging into an increasingly acute global crisis. There is widespread concern that current efforts do not add up to the kind of systemic change necessary to create a new paradigm. This is a historic moment, where more and more people — especially young people — are fundamentally realizing that the way we’ve been doing things for many decades doesn’t make sense.
As emerging placemaking networks evolve and strengthen around regional leaders and locally defined sub-networks, they can draw out collective efforts in shaping a new political, social, and economic foundation for shaping cities in the future. No one sector, profession, or demographic, should dominate the defining of places, or of placemaking.
PlacemakingX seeks to support this paradigm shift by highlighting and catalyzing systemic change at a neighborhood, city, state, national, and global level to fill that void.
Rapid urbanization and limitless suburbanization over the last 70 years have shown a wanton disregard for public spaces, which has heightened competition for the use of public space within cities and towns around the world. This is seen most dramatically in the conflict between cars, bikes, and pedestrians in the streets, and conflict between commercial and public uses of parks, plazas, and other common spaces.
Resolving these conflicts has spawned competition between professionals (engineers, designers) and decision makers (public officials, business leaders) to find solutions to problems in local communities. Their divergent agendas, which frequently ignore the wishes of people inhabiting these places, too often result in mediocre (or worse) outcomes for the people who live, work, and play there. We all can point to places that have been ruined because fast-moving traffic or high-volume sales were prioritized far above basic human needs.
Fortunately, pioneering urbanists and organizations have stood up to challenge these wrongheaded and destructive notions. Over the last few years, there has been an explosion of regional groups and inspiring leaders in countries around the world that have established placemaking as a growing and catalytic movement that equips us collectively with tools to make the places we live into places we love.
The roots of PlacemakingX can be traced back to the Placemaking Leadership Council at Project for Public Spaces. This network of placemakers began with a 2013 convening of 330 people in Detroit, MI, USA, and has grown to over 2,000 people around the world. The incredible enthusiasm for the PLC demonstrated the demand for an organization like PlacemakingX, and that's why Project for Public Spaces spun off this organization in 2019 to do that enthusiasm justice.
At the end of 2019, Project for Public Spaces will be ending the Placemaking Leadership Council to show its full support for PlacemakingX. All of us want to thank you for your early commitment to the placemaking movement, and we encourage you to stay involved through this exciting new opportunity.
Placemaking Week is a weeklong gathering of placemakers that emphasizes hands-on learning and innovative social events, while leaving behind a public space legacy in host cities. Embracing a wide variety of sectors and disciplines, the event creates a dynamic forum for attendees to develop and share concrete strategies to advance placemaking both locally and globally.
While Project for Public Spaces organizes the only global Placemaking Week, anyone can organize their own regional Placemaking Week. It can be big or small, local or continental, formal or informal, serious or celebratory. Organizers from Nairobi to Stockholm have already hosted Placemaking Weeks in their communities. Learn more at the Placemaking Week website.
Project for Public Spaces (PPS) organized the first two international Placemaking Weeks in Vancouver in 2016 and in Amsterdam in 2017, bringing together 400+ placemakers from 48 countries to learn, network, experience real public spaces, and support a citywide campaign for great places.