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A glimpse into the Future of Places

What were your take-home messages from the Place Leaders Conference in Adelaide last week? We came up with 14. Key words include up-lifting, collaborative and inspirational.

Conference Walking Tour with a rest-stop on Leigh St, Adelaide, SA. AUS: we enjoyed the city's hospitality.Conference Walking Tour with a rest-stop on Leigh St, Adelaide, SA. AUS: we enjoyed the city's hospitality.

Posted by: Andrew Hammonds

Thanks to: Future of Places Adelaide 2014


I have a feeling that in years to come I will look back and appreciate the significance of these two days organised by Place Leaders Asia Pacific. With animated leadership from new CEO Greg Mackie and inspirational influence from Chairperson Peter Smith Place Leaders has a new brand and a stronger mission. We'll talk more about them in future editions (after I kick off the Greg and Peter fanclub). In the meantime I wanted to share key messages from the conference while they are still swirling around in my mind. In summary:

  1. Twitter + Conference = Conversation
  2. A Global Focus on Placemaking
  3. Placemaking is the New Green (green being trees and money)
  4. Place Leadership
  5. Let's not forget Smart Growth
  6. Freeware
  7. Measuring outcomes
  8. It's a broad representation
  9. It's time to stop banging on the door & walk through it together
  10. Pink Zone: break the rules (or at least question them)
  11. Placemaking – from temporary to legacy
  12. Place Story
  13. Empowering and enabling
  14. Getting the language right while we make place

The brand new Rundle St Mall, Adelaide City, SA, AUS (with an old favourite): I needed to get into a street full of mirrors and have a good hard look at myself during this conference.The brand new Rundle St Mall, Adelaide City, SA, AUS (with an old favourite): I needed to get into a street full of mirrors and have a good hard look at myself during this conference.1. Twitter + Conference = Conversation

Twitter demonstrated it's power for me in this conference. I benefited from sharing information within and across concurrent sessions. It felt like we were a team - even though we didn't all meet. Some of the ideas for this article (and the quotes) were pulled from the twitter feed #futureplacesadl. 

2. A Global Focus on Placemaking

The conference was sponsored by the The Future of Places. This forum is a collaboration between UN Habitat, Project for Public Spaces and Ax:son Johnson Foundation. The purpose of the collaboration is to indicate the importance of public space and placemaking in city planning at Habitat III 2016. There are 3 international conferences (2013, 2014 and 2015), national seminars, books and reports and an exhibition at Habitat III.

From twitter:

"The Future of Places is aiming for a global focus on public places" @FutureofPlaces

 "This is why the theme of our Buenos Aires #FutureOfPlaces will be #StreetsAsPlaces."

Adelaide Fringe, Rundle Park, Adelaide City, SA, AUS: Steve Bentley, Chris Sands after a show at the Fringe. Amazed by Steve's acrobatics into the night...Adelaide Fringe, Rundle Park, Adelaide City, SA, AUS: Steve Bentley, Chris Sands after a show at the Fringe. Amazed by Steve's acrobatics into the night...3. Placemaking is the New Green (green being trees and money)

Like a lot of people I was a committed Greenie back in the 80s and 90s. Today Placemaking and urban design are delivering sustainable development and so much more. We can experience Placemaking. Anyone can smell it, taste it, hear it, feel it, see it. Festival time in Adelaide had my senses working overtime.

From twitter:

"Placemaking is the new green its time to stop banging on the door & walk through it to mainstream together” @ACC_CEO

"Our cities are the crucibles of new industry - start ups, creatives, new media etc @CloverMoore"

"Melbourne Mayor - it's not hard, great streets make great cities #urbandesign #placemaking

"Young people now choosing the PLACE over the JOB. So "placemaking" is economically important (& a way to halt brain drain)."

"#placemaking perception change equals attachment change which equals econ growth"

"Making great cities is not as difficult as you might think - if you make great streets you make great cities @LordMayorMelb"

Have a look at the article Sustainable Urbanism

Adelaide City Walking Tour, Noth Tce, Adelaide, SA. AUS: impressive to be guided through Placemaking in the city by informed General Managers of Council.Adelaide City Walking Tour, Noth Tce, Adelaide, SA. AUS: impressive to be guided through Placemaking in the city by informed General Managers of Council.4. Place Leadership

Adelaide City Council appears to be living the dream. Delivering results with commitment to Placemaking at all levels - Mayor, Councilors, CEO, General Managers and staff. Placemaking responsibility has been delegated to the CEO and is shared across the executive team. A placemaking unit sits within the CEO's office. They also have the support of the State Government. Let's not forget about Splash Adelaide - look for them in the next edition. We hosted a Q&A with younger members of the council over breakfast. It seems like they get it and just want to get on with it. 

From twitter:

"#placemaking single most important strategy that Govt can adopt to build community & citizen capacity over time @ACC_CEO"

"It’s no good talking smart & building dumb, so true @LordMayorMelb"

"Hobart mayor acknowledges city dreamers like #MOMA"

"Adelaide is the placemaking Mecca" @placefocus

"#placemaking success - cultural change needed @ political & public admin level, community & professional services @ACC_CEO"

Legge "Leaders can inspire cities and cities can inspire leaders - Jim Hunt"

"If people lead the leaders will follow - attributed to Gandhi and Wavy Gravy"

Have a look at our article Are you a Placemaker or a Placemanager?

CC Lord Mayors Panel, Place Leaders, Future of Places, Adelaide, SA: Greg challenged us to name this group - gaggle, phalanx, community... CC Lord Mayors Panel, Place Leaders, Future of Places, Adelaide, SA: Greg challenged us to name this group - gaggle, phalanx, community... 5. Let's not forget Smart Growth

American New Urbanism from the 80's and 90's has proven that you can't create great places in the middle of nowhere. They are now embracing smart growth to create new places with public transport and jobs. The Australian Council of Capital City Lord Mayors met during the conference and launched Unlocking Smart Growth in Australia’s Capital Cities. This report by Urbis identifies the critical components that contribute to making our cities more prosperous, sustainable and livable places. The Smart Growth model provides a real alternative to continual expansion. It focuses on building mixed use communities with a range of housing and transport choices, great public spaces and access to local jobs.

From twitter:

"@CCCLM01 launches 'Unlocking Smart Growth' at #FuturePlacesAdl"

Have a look at our article Affordable Living Handbook and Video

6. Freeware

Do you think of a great idea and then wonder how to fund it? Chris Sands from Totally Locally showed us that success can come from giving something away for free. In fact funding might actually be the kiss of death for many projects. 

"If you leave the tools, walk away and take no credit - it might just work. Totally Locally"

"@stephenyarwood predicts information ecology will impact #placemaking"

Sharing information is our mantra at Placefocus.  

Leigh St, Adelaide City, SA, AUS: with Vege Velo in the background. One of Council's licensed mobile food vendors.Leigh St, Adelaide City, SA, AUS: with Vege Velo in the background. One of Council's licensed mobile food vendors.7. Measuring outcomes

What makes a community a desirable place to live? What draws people to stake their future in it? Are communities with attached residents better off? Katherine Loflin shared the results of the Knight Soul of the Community project. Three main qualities attach people to place:

  1. social offerings, such as entertainment venues and places to meet;
  2. openness (how welcoming a place is); and
  3. the area’s aesthetics (its physical beauty and green spaces). 

Attachment is an important metric for communities, since it links to key outcomes like local economic growth (GDP). 

While we need to stay busy making places, we also need to spend a little time measuring the benefits and the impacts.

From twitter:

"Heseltine - place prosperity is the end game - not just economic"

"Loflin - pushing placemaking into the mainstream through evidence"

"Mayor Melbourne "we need data and evidence on #placemaking to support change"

Have a look at our article - You can't manage what you don't measure

Royal Croquet Club, Victoria Square, Adelaide City, SA, AUS:  What a way to finish the Splash master class. A drink at the Caribbean Shanty Town - a rustic mix of old iron, beaten up old drums and... junk. The Royal Croquet Club is a unique garden pop-up party during Fringe in the new Victoria Square.Royal Croquet Club, Victoria Square, Adelaide City, SA, AUS: What a way to finish the Splash master class. A drink at the Caribbean Shanty Town - a rustic mix of old iron, beaten up old drums and... junk. The Royal Croquet Club is a unique garden pop-up party during Fringe in the new Victoria Square.8. It's a broad representation

I met people from:

  • OPTUS - managing the Sydney Campus
  • AMP Capital Shopping Centres
  • NS Projects - project managers from Perth
  • University of Western Sydney - Estate Development
  • Lend Lease - Construction and Infrastructure
  • Maras Group - Main St landlord
  • Business Precincts
  • Resident Associations
  • Consulting firms: PlacePartnersHemisphere Design and CoDesign Studio
  • Real Estate: McGees Adelaide
  • Council's: Manningham, Geelong, Adelaide, Unley, Hobart,Port Philip
  • Associations: Council of Capital City Lord Mayors, Chinatown, 
  • Government Development Organisations: Renewal SA, Metropolitan Renewal Authority
  • Misc: Adelaide Festival, Totally Locally, 

Noticeably absent were State and Commonwealth Government representatives. As well as large land developers. 

The brand new Rundle St Mall, Adelaide City, SA, AUS: we still need urban design in Placemaking. Looks a little like the Queen St Mall, Brisbane, and Flinders St, Townsville...The brand new Rundle St Mall, Adelaide City, SA, AUS: we still need urban design in Placemaking. Looks a little like the Queen St Mall, Brisbane, and Flinders St, Townsville...9. It's time to stop banging on the door & walk through to mainstream together

I stole this title from the inspiring presentation by Peter Smith CEO of Adelaide City Council. It was great to see architects, landscape architects and urban designers represented. A couple seemed to be struggling to get their heads around Placemaking and where they fit. For our views have a look at "With placemaking on the rise should we forget urban design?" While "everyone can contribute to place making" (@ACC_CEO) only experts can design landscapes, buildings and infrastructure which support our places. But, as Peter went on to say "we need to shift from project led to place led".

From twitter:

"People make places, not architects, planners or council leaders"

"Combining Hardware (slow; infrastructure) with Software (fast; culture) - connecting people & place in design & co-creation"

"Lighter quicker cheaper is one tool part of #placemaking continuum - permanent infrastructure important too @ACC_CEO"

"Placemaking is not a position or a profession. It’s people coming together to shape where they live #FuturePlacesADL"

"New word, new professional & institutional practices; returning to a process we forgot"

"Placemaking is not a position or a profession. Its people coming together to shape where they live"

"Both diversity and expertise important - (useful) tensions arise in collaboration"

Bank St, Adelaide City, SA, AUS: when is a parklet a parklot? When it costs a lot of money.Bank St, Adelaide City, SA, AUS: when is a parklet a parklot? When it costs a lot of money.10. Pink Zone: break the rules (or at least question them)

Placemaking requires a fresh mind set. A focus on innovation rather than risk 'If we see things through a risk lens we focus on regulation not solutions or innovation' @ACC_CEO" One of Katherine Lofins top 10 Placemaking Lessons is "get to yes - does the rule book need to change of the idea". Detroit is a Free Economic Zone, the first Pink-Zone: a place where the red tape is light, CNN Money.

From twitter:

"Ade CEO "Two weeks ago Council killed 200 policies - 260 to go!" ^AH #placemaking #futureplacsadl

Have a look at The Art of Placemaking - it's an attitude and A Bias Towards Action

11. Placemaking – from temporary to legacy

Another title steal from Peter Smith. Whatever you call it - popup placemaking, tactical urbanism, lighter quicker cheaper (LQC) is hot in placemaking and urban design. We are still working out the balance between these temporary installations and longer-term landscapes and buildings. It's definitely not a case of "one size fits all". While the pendulum might be swinging back towards temporary it should be considered on a place by place basis.

From twitter:

"Placemaking over the long term is one of the best strategies for politicians to gain long term political capital - but they will also need quick wins" 

"placemaking has a risk of getting stuck like other trends - avoid fill up space Vs creating places Kylie Legge"

"The challenge of fast urbanism! Be experimental. Reintroduce informalism. Lucinda Hartley"

"Test, trial & evaluate - anything can be changed within 24 hrs"

"Ade CEO "Popup #placemaking is 'pogoing' with the community instead of dancing"

Smith "popup #placemaking is the precursor to permanent change"

Heseltine "Need quick wins while acknowledging that they may not solve the problems"

Have a look at the Tactics of Pop-up Placemaking

12. Place Story

Katherine Lofin's number one Placemaking Lesson is "know your narrative (or story) and use it as the starting point for everything else". My presentation was Moving from Place-telling to Place-doing. In successful companies, the story is evident in every action undertaken. They are story doers. I was struck with the applicability of this concept to Placemaking. What story are we telling. Is this intrinsic to everything we do? To test this concept I have applied it to Macgregor Tce - my local centre in What's your Place Story? I wanted to share my results and inspire you to think differently. I believe by story doing we focus on the relationship between place, it's story and our organisations.

From twitter:

"Drivers of attachment - same everywhere; aesthetics, openness and social offerings"

Frome St, Adelaide City, SA, AUS - presumably this street artist was empowered by the landlord and councilFrome St, Adelaide City, SA, AUS - presumably this street artist was empowered by the landlord and council13. Empowering and enabling

Successful places are more than well designed streets, spaces and buildings – they also enable and empower people. Users, traders, workers and residents all converting spaces into places and being responsible for their destinies. We can enable these people by building on our intrinsic understanding of place with tools, techniques and ideas. We also need to empower them - give the authority to do something.

From twitter:

"Placemaking is the single most important strategy that governments can adopt and build community and citizen capacity over time".

"Placemaking is not a position or a profession. It’s people coming together to shape where they live"

"@lucindahartley of @codesignstudio - top down, bottom up; empower not just engage!"

"Engagement doesn't have to hurt :-)"

"'If you bring the community with you no politician will dare change it' @ACC_CEO"

"Residents are location experts ; they live and breathe a place 24/7, 365 days a year"

"People need to own their places. You can't give it to them. They need to take it themselves"

"Perth Mayor "fall of collaboration and the rise of cooperation"

14. Getting the language right while we make place

The words we use have meaning. Kylie Legge suggested we "need a common language to avoid placewash". According to Michael Hyatt "This past year I have noticed how my vocabulary impacts my attitude. Words have power. They impact others, of course, but they can also have an impact on us. How a shift in your vocabulary can instantly change your attitude"

Placemaking or placemaking or place-making or place making or ....

While I agree with the sentiment we also need to maintain momentum. I wonder if the Australian urban design 'movement' stagnated because we couldn't agree on a definition?

From twitter:

"@PlacePartners it's great to be part of the #place movement regardless of what you call it #FuturePlacesADL"

Additional points from Twitter

"New word, new professional & institutional practices; returning to a process we forgot"

"Legge "generosity doesn't have to exclude profit""

"Legge "The future is the little decisions we make today""

"Placemaking is connecting - people to spaces to streets to sidewalks to buildings. And everything in between..."

"Placemaking - the designing of the invisible is as important as the designing of the visible"

"Perth Mayor "urbanity may not be in our nature but it is in our history"

"“Unfortunately you can’t legislate against ugly architecture” Katrina Fong Lim Lord Mayor Darwin"

What were your take-home messages? Did we miss any?


Updated: Thursday 20 March, 2014

Written: Thursday 13 March, 2014

Additional Information

Placemaking and Urban Design 101Place RolesPlace Tools

Additional Articles

Are you a Placemaker or a Placemanager?User is king in urban design and placemakingWith placemaking on the rise should we forget urban design?Six opportunities to improve our places through prototypingGood Placemaking Recognizes What We Inherently Know About SpacesSix opportunities to improve our places through prototyping


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We generate discussion among participants in our training courses in urban design and placemaking. While there are common qualities to the places we like, our own views matter. As suggested by participants, we have started this blog to continue this discussion on-line. The Comments section at the bottom of each article provides the opportunity, so don't be bashful. Particularly if you disagree with us!

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