Ethan Kent

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Disconnection from each other, and from our places, is at the core of what threatens our health, happiness, and humanity. Cities fail and succeed at the scale of human interaction. How our public realm supports a full spectrum of informal to formal connection is foundational to a viable, equitable and thriving civilization.


Ethan Kent works to support public space organizations, projects, and leadership around the world to build a global placemaking movement. Ethan has traveled to more than 1000 cities, in 60 countries, to advance the cause of leading urban development with inclusive public spaces and placemaking. In 2019 he co-founded PlacemakingX to network, amplify and accelerate placemaking leadership and impact globally. Ethan has helped initiate and grow 24+ regional placemaking networks covering much of the globe, while also supporting the PlacemakingUS network, and the Social Life Project.

He builds on more than 20 years of working on placemaking projects and campaigns with Project for Public Spaces. Ethan has been integral to the development of placemaking as a transformative approach to economic development, environmentalism, transportation planning, governance, resilience, social equity, design, placekeeping, digital space, inclusion, tourism and innovation.

Ethan has keynoted well over 100 top urbanism conferences and helped organize dozens of the placemaking conferences that have most shaped the movement.

United States
Executive Director
PlacemakingX Role(s)
Thought Leader
Transformative Agenda Focus
Place Governance
Economic Development & Innovation
Equity & Inclusion
Streets & Transportation
Sustainability & Resilience

Placemaking is...

maximizing how people and places can build each other up. For placemaking to address systemic challenges and grow impact to the meet the scale of global crises, placemaking needs to grow shared value exponentially more than private value, build collective governance capacity, and create spaces that enable more pluralistic culture.

First placemaking encounter

I was lucky to grow up around many of the people that inspired and laid the foundation for the placemaking movement. Project for Public Space was founded by my father Fred Kent, about a year before I was born. I started working there in the mid-90s around when the organization was just starting to use the term placemaking to describe the public space planning processes and tools that they had developed to put into practice the ideas of William H.Whyte and Jane Jacobs. As a boy I got to be around many founders of the environmental movement and leading urbanists. I also got to travel with my father to visit great places where his passion for public spaces rubbed off on me. My first experience really getting hooked was going to a conference with him in Venice in 1985 when I was 9 where I was first able to walk around a city on my own.

Favorite childhood place

Central Park was the public space I grew up next to, and gathering, picnicking and playing with my community there formed wonderful early memories.

Favorite Place

Any city's most informal public market is the place I like to go to see most intimately what the soul of that city is about.

Fun Fact


Ethan has led a broad spectrum of Placemaking efforts, providing comprehensive public engagement, user analysis, planning, and visioning for high-profile public spaces on six continents.

Ethan worked on over 200 Project for Public Spaces placemaking projects, including: Times Square and Astor Place in New York; Congress Square in Portland, ME, Kennedy Plaza in Providence, RI; Pompey Square, Nassau, Bahamas; Garden Place in Hamilton, New Zealand; Sub Centro Las Condes in Santiago, Chile. He has also worked with some of the most high profile developments in the world to help maximize public space outcomes in Hong Kong, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Auckland, Parramatta, and Sao Paulo.

Utilizing lessons learned through his project work, Ethan regularly creates and conducts Placemaking training courses, with audiences ranging from: city planning staff in Vancouver, Toronto and across Australia; community development corporations in Detroit; public housing developers in Sweden; traffic engineers in New Jersey; the public works department of Quito, Ecuador; planners and developers in Pimpri-Chinchwad, India; and the leadership of Durban, South Africa; and Main Street managers in Wyoming.

Ethan has developed many major partnerships and programs to advance placemaking:

Key messages

  • No one use, or user group, should dominate a public space or a placemaking process. If they do, they limit the outcomes for others and themselves. Great placemaking layers uses and users in ways that are additive. In such a process, the potential for places to support people are infinite.
  • We need to network the placemaking movement globally to enable us to grow collective learning, advocacy, and action while preventing the movement from being dominated by any ideology, demographic, or discipline.
  • Let’s turn upside-down transportation planning to start with creating the places people want to go to — in order to reduce trips and create places and systems compatible with walking, biking, and transit.
  • In a good placemaking process, bad ideas, negative people, and mistakes can be made useful for driving better outcomes.
  • Successful public spaces are the new anchor tenant. Great placemaking should drive investment and attract new people on the terms of the existing population - resisting negative gentrification.