Design and the four categories of placemaking

Urban design is an institutionalized approach to the shaping of lived spaces. It implies that a superior intellectual view, (ordered, educated, coded and logical expressed as “DESIGN”) should override the messy, chaotic and contradictory views of the social fabric, often defined as COMMUNITY, that actually brings LIFE to places and spaces.

William Street Mall Gosford NSW AUSWilliam Street Mall Gosford NSW AUS

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hen I first heard about your course on Placemaking, I was given a printed template of questions and told to choose one location out of four to do a place audit. At the time I did not understand what a “place audit”  was but I went to William Mall and diligently answered the questions. Five weeks after your course I started the assignment on the William Mall (223.33 KB) and became very surprised to realize how much I was now able to “see” in the Mall. Particularly its now “obvious” potentials.

Furthermore, I found it important that there was a cross section of our Council attending your course. As you clearly insisted, the best examples of placemaking models are the outcome of a democratic process in which we exercise our dis-ability to listen. In this sense I was equally surprised to acknowledge that the “voices and views” of my colleagues had found a way of entering my essay of the Mall. So thank you Andrew! Your course did have an impact on me!

Posted by: Elio Gatti

It is clear from your comments that the spin I gave to the term “DESIGN” got your full attention.  Yes, there is more than meets the eye in the use of some “common” words.

"Placemaking has a broader scope than urban design. Behind urban design there is a collective of interdisciplinary specialists in the field. Behind the concept of placemaking there are the voices and perspectives of a whole community. Not relegated to a passive consultation process, but actively engaged in the design concepts and outcomes."

There is another term commonly use that I have philosophical issues with and that is the adjective “soft” next to the noun “infrastructure”…but that is for another essay….

Mortimer Lane Gosford NSW AUSMortimer Lane Gosford NSW AUSI read your blog about the architect’s answer to “design” and the way it would/could/should inspire different uses of public space. My take is that like you, I feel that the architects words are a point of intellectual arrival not of departure. In other words, it took all that probing and questioning in order to re-define the architects position on the influence of design and now the understanding of the design function has shifted for the better.

On a separate but related point, yes you are right to point out that my cultural activities are the equivalent of the application of “design concepts”. They do not differ from the work of the architect… but my actions, my words and ultimately my outcomes are viewed/treated differently and therefore valued and measured differently.

Imagine if we were to extend even further the term DESIGN to four categories of placemaking:

  1. The NATURAL DESIGN i.e. what the landscape looks like in its natural untouched state. The Aboriginal insists that the initial creator “designed” the land in such a way that land now talks to us  i.e. it has embedded multiple “signs” that need to be learnt, decoded and interpreted before you “enter” that land and live on it…and from it.
  2. The URBAN DESIGN with the definition you already know.
  3. The HUMAN DESIGN which is the way people already live in a space.
  4. The CULTURAL DESIGN which is instead the concerted conscious efforts made in order to modify the given behaviour of particular current users.

The point of this intellectual exercise is to re-position what is naturally already there (point a) whether it is the initial landscape or the initial behaviour of people from what we want to see happen in a given space (point b) through urban and cultural designs. Some more dialogue needs to happen between these four “categories” if we want to take informed decisions in a democratic process. Also “cultural/human design” would be a great term to replace the current “soft infrastructure”.

Thursday 16 August, 2012

Placefocus links: Placemaking and Urban Design 101Place Tools - place auditQualities of successful placesSocial Fabricplanning the social fabric

We consistently receive positive feedback about 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 of each blog provides the opportunity, so don't be bashful. Speak up! Particularly if you disagree with us. If you are reading this in our email then click on the hyperlink in the blog heading. This will take you to our website. If you can't see a comment box at the bottom of this blog in the website, you may need to login (at the top left of the page) or registerContact us if this is all too confusing!



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