Sustainable Place-making by Suprima Bhele

Place-making is a multifaceted approach that is the process of turning a public space into a public living space. It plays a vital part in building community because place-making helps in creating a sense of belonging into the community. This process like any other may or may not be successful. The success of a place making process can be determined by how the place is contributing in bringing the community members together, and helping them connect with one another. Hence, it is very important to focus on the “making” of a place, as the name “place-making” clearly suggests. The core reason behind place-making has always advocated “a return of public space to people.” The idea of making great, social, places is not new and it has been important since the beginning of human civilization. For instance: the agora in Greece as market place and an area for public gathering, to the Bryant Park in New York. All the successful public places in human history have always reflected the needs and cultures of community and has been the connective tissue that binds the community.

The process should be approached in an anthropologic way rather than a scientific way. While making places, people living in the community should be the priority. Thus, a participatory place-making is a must. Participatory place-making allows planners to use theoretical concepts and flex them to fit the requirements of the community. One can use the best of theory but if it does not meet a community’s need, then the place would be a waste. A public place belongs to no one and at the same time, belongs to everybody. So, people who live in a community must have a say in the matters of changing the place that is their surroundings. The process of making never really finishes. As philosopher David Harvey writes, “The right to the city is far more than the individual liberty to access urban resources: it is a right to change ourselves by changing the city. It is, moreover, a common rather than an individual right since this transformation inevitably depends upon the exercise of a collective power to reshape the processes of urbanization. The freedom to make and remake our cities and ourselves is, I want to argue, one of the most precious yet most neglected of our human rights”. Participatory planning ensures that all the stakeholders are involved and the community’s needs are addressed. When, all sides are analyzed, it then becomes possible to take a place-making approach from a political to personal level and it enables sustainability.

What I learned so far is that, there are three factors to consider when building any place.

  • Planning
  • Designing
  • Managing

Planning involves the part where we consider how to build what we want. The community leaders say what is needed. Then, in the designing phase, the planners come in and customize the requirement to fit it in the area. The third and the longest part of the process is the managing. After everything is built, the management is totally based upon the utilization of the created space. The space will only be used if the place meets people’s requirements. Otherwise, the place will be abandoned and the process would not be sustainable. Hence participatory place-making is the key to a successful and sustainable place-making.

(image from MIT DUSP Project)

Place-making never really ends (image from MIT Placemaking Project)

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About suprimaishere

I am a junior at Hollins University, VA, USA. I am pursuing a B.Sc in Mathematics and a B.A. in Studio Arts. My aspiration is to work as an architect-urban planner.
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