Placemaking: Both a Process and an Outcome

This week’s readings described the rise of sustainable urbanism and the ideology of placemaking as respectable, and quite recent, approaches to city planning. What I found so interesting about all of the commentary regarding the need for development to be human-focused and include local participation that is genuine and impactful, was that this idea was revolutionary, and is still being fought for in many areas. It would seem obvious that in order to make a space more appealing or vibrant, one would consider those who occupy and therefore essentially create the environment of said area. Therefore, it is shocking how professional developers, architects, engineers, and urban planners could become so hyper focused within a silo view of purely physical development, that they would completely forget that just as machines require energy, a space requires life in order to fulfill any sort of purpose.

The phrase Adhya uses to describe the gap that exists between theoretical, traditional planning and sustainable urbanism truly struck me. He explains it as the contrast between the “production of space,” and the “consumption of space,” which involves the lived experiences of inhabitants (Adhya, p.216).  I also appreciated that Adhya does not disregard the need for professional expertise, but instead asserts that shared spaces are created, renovated, and maintained through the integration of shared knowledge of specific disciplines as well as knowledge of the place that can only come from first-hand experience. The integration of these, at times competing, perspectives is extremely important for genuine development that regards the complexities of the system that comprises a city. It is only through a deliberative democratic process wherein all may equally exercise their agency that plans may be drawn, scratched out, and redrawn again to best serve the needs of each specific locale.

Furthermore, it is important to note that because this is an evolutionary process, and adapts to the inherently dynamic system that makes up a given space, it is never quite finished. This can undoubtedly seem frustrating at first as people often strive to complete a task when they start it, and feel unaccomplished otherwise. However, in one of my community development classes at UVM, a very important truth was explained to all students: Sustainable community development is both a process and an outcome. I think that this definition applies extremely well to the concept of placemaking as by definition, it is never finished. True placemaking constantly strives to improve well-being and therefore creates places that can perpetually support the changing needs of their residents.

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