David Engwicht

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Placemaking is like home making. Just as a homemaker turns a house into a home, a placemaker turns a space into a place... And poor people are often better homemakers than rich people. They furnish their home with soul.


David has over 25 years experience in place making. He's a passionate designer, artist, author, communicator, and social inventor, best known as the creator of the Walking School Bus. PPS describe him as “one of the world’s most inventive thinkers on creating vibrant public spaces”. Nothing gives him greater joy than working with communities to breathe new life into dead spaces.

David and his team have created the 7 Day Makeover which rejuvenates town centres in just seven days. It gives local government and communities an emersion experience in agile planning.

David believes that three of the factors killing our public spaces are; master-planning, community consultation, and what people do with their private land, which has a huge impact on the vitality of the public realm.

Creative Communities International
PlacemakingX Role(s)
Senior Advisor
Transformative Agenda Focus
Economic Development & Innovation
Streets & Transportation

Placemaking is...

First placemaking encounter

Fighting a road widening back in 1987, I first caught a glimpse of how urban form impacts the quality of our public places. I became fascinated by how every minute detail of our environments either enhances or diminishes people's sense of place and belonging.However, I did not know that my new passion was called "placemaking".

Favorite childhood place

Favorite Place

My back yard, because I've turned it into a neighborhood park and even when I'm away, making public spaces in other places, I'm still building a stronger sense of community in my own neighborhood.

Fun Fact


Since 1989, David has written a number of books that have radically redefined the way people look at cities, public spaces and traffic. But David is not just a theoretician. He has pioneered new agile methods of placemaking which focus on "doing" rather than planning or talking. This innovating has culminated in the 7 Day Makeover which enables communities to make over their town centres in just 7 days, including planning for the makeover.

David has developed a "language" that helps people understand how public spaces work and how to revitalize them; concepts like "linger nodes", "anchoring presence" and "civic heart". He has also taken down his fences and turned his yard into a public park to demonstrate how private land can be used for public good.

Key messages

A lot of placemaking is:

1. "Design-centric" rather than "place-centric". It takes the old design approaches and simply adds some placemaking language.

2. Involves too much talking (and planning) and not enough doing.

3. Thinks the community knows what they want when most people can only imagine their place being "a pale imitation of some-place-else". Result? Shared ignorance.

4. Ignores that what people and businesses do with their private land has more impact on the vitality of the public realm than anything that can be done in public spaces.

5. Tries to work within the existing regulatory frameworks rather than inventing mechanisms that disrupt business as usual (we use "trials" and "permission statements" to do this, which is how we can transform spaces in seven days).