Public space is the backbone of any sustainable city. The ground floor (plinth) may be only 10% of a building, it determines 90% of the experience. The city at eye level and human scale should be the fundament: place-led development.
Hans Karssenberg (1970) is founder, partner, public developer, placemaker and trainer at STIPO - team for better cities. He leads complex projects and processes of urban and area development on a local and regional level, always in co-creation, and always aimed at genuine long term sustainability. Hans is active in place-led development and human area development and area transformation, city wide strategy, social and economic innovation, quality of public space, system change for human scale. He is initiator, leader and driver behind the international program The City at Eye Level, leader in Placemaking Europe and proud member of PlacemakingX.
...a long term process of co-creating a great city at eye level, a city with human scale, places where you intuitively feel at home and want to stay longer and talk. It is "5xI": inclusive, innovative, informal, intimate and incomplete.
I met with Fred and Kathy during a place game at Plein 40-45 in Amsterdam West in 2009. In the years before, I had tried to get away from the design led approach of the city: if a place did not function, get a new design. I was looking for ways to include people, activities, social life. Meeting Fred and Kathy felt like coming home somehow, seeing this entire body of knowledge opening up.
Funny thing - I prefered to be inside, reading. I guess I'm catching up now!
I just love our street. It is a pedestrian area with great hybrid spaces - where we all placed our benches and compete for the most beautiful facade garden. Sitting down on my bench, I bring my newspaper as an excuse, already knowing that I won't be reading, as neighbours pass by and we catch up.
The first project I ever worked on was helping to legalise the informal gardens of house boat residents, going from door to door. It was the best school I could imagine.
Placemaking needs to be more than just the onetime interventions. It is a long term and deep process to shape a place. It should not only be something at the beginning or the end of an urban development process. We need Place-Led Development and Place Management. We need a new financial infrastructure to grow placemaking initiatives: the Placemaking Fund. We need to grow the impact of the network by sharing our inspiration, tools and secrets open source. We need to be genuinely inclusive in all our efforts and learn to use property value growth for the benefit of the community. We need bottom-up and top-down to open up and be partners. And we need to start seeing public space as a three dimensional experience, that includes the facades of buildings: the city at eye level.