Place Qualities - P.L.A.C.E.S

P.L.A.C.E.S = People, Legible, wAlkble, Character, Enclosure and Sustainability - common qualities of the places we like. What do you think?

Paddington Reservoir - Paddington, Sydney, NSW, AUS

Image: An Australian Urban Design Award winner - the conversion of a water reservoir into a high quality urban park – reminiscent of Greece. Good urban design or good park design?

 We always ask participants in our courses to identify their favourite places. They tend to share key characteristics or 'Place Qualities'.  To help remember them we developed the acronym (or bacronym*) P.L.A.C.E.S. This is a prototype and we would appreciate your feedback.


Is this a people place? What attracts people and makes them return?

It makes sense to have people up front in criteria about streets and places. We tend to look for people when deciding on a cafe, restaurant or place. Participants quickly pick me up when I use a photo without people in it.


Is this place easy to understand? Are the streets and places recognisable, navigable and coherent?

In order for a centre, city or suburb to function we need to be able to find our way through it. One of the functions of centres is to enable the greatest amount of exchange in the least time and lowest effort. While enabling little surprises along the way. 


Is this place made for walking? Does it promote exchange over movement?

The decisions we make on our streets and other places should focus on the pedestrian at the ground level. Have you noticed that many of the places you like have a parking problem? In other words focus on pedestrians no car parks. 




Several of these are drivers of good urban design/placemaking. They really need to be there for good places to be sustainable in the long term. This might include: CharacterDiversityAccessibilityFit & functionAnimatorsContinuity and enclosureConsistency & varietyLegibilityStructureFeaturesSocial Fabric; and Sustainability

The “optimisers” (not sure if this is the best word yet?) are variable, based on personal preference. For example you might have a different tolerance for safety to an older or younger person (‘grittyness’)? They might include: Quality of the public realmSafetyCreativity; and Sensory pleasure.

Based on the Qualities of Successful Places in the Councillor's Guide to Urban Design (Urban Intiatives, 2003). This is a excellent and concise introduction to urban design. As well as the NZ Urban Design Protocol and the VIC Urban Design Charter.

*A backronym or bacronym is a phrase specially constructed so that an acronym fits an existing word. Backronyms may be invented with serious or humorous intent, or may be a type of false or folk etymology (Wikipedia). 

Place Qualities E-Workbook

We offer a Place Qualities E-Workbook as part of our E-Learning series. The workbook provides a bite sized chunk of interactive urban design and placemaking learning and has a range of information, references and links which you can read at your leisure.

Each workbook in the E-learning series includes an assessment which is interactive with our website and tests your understanding through a mix of content and reflective questions. This preview shows the style and layout, table of contents and reflective questions. You can purchase this E-Workbook, or any of the others from the series, from our shop.

Latest information

Available in  PPT on slideshare - Place Qualities

Videos worth watching

How to Make an Attractive City

Relevant Blogs: Be brave - click the red buttonDesign and the four categories of placemakingHome advertising - literallyIs your favourite place 5 Star?Movie - New Town 1948Should we copy local architecture?William H Whyte's doco - “The Social Life of Small Urban Places”Why height limits in our cities deliver more interesting placesTraffic studies are bull****Forget the gym - focus on place!13 products to facilitate walking

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