Placemaking Impressions by Jacob Randall

Like many of my peers, the concept of placemaking was alien to me and I was unsure what to expect arriving on the first day of class.  Since then, we have met twice and have clarified the inherently vague term by both definition and firsthand experience. During the first class, we discussed our preexisting concepts of a “successful” place and were assigned readings written by Professor Lorenzo herself, as well as excerpts from the Project for Public Spaces. The following week, we met to have a walkthrough of the Borgo Bello neighborhood and met with the president of the neighborhood association, Orfeo Ambrosi.

Thinking back to the first class and going through the assigned reading that week was somewhat prolific for me when I realized I had been at the heart of a placemaking activity at my home university. For the past year, the campus bike shop I was employed at had taken the task of rehabilitating a decaying smoothie stand tent in the center of campus, in hopes of transforming it into a satellite bike repair station. As defined by the Project form Public Spaces, “Placemaking inspires people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces as the heart of every community”. Conceptually, this was the aim of the project, but unfortunately it slowly lost interest and the tent now acts as storage. As I continued to read through the chapters, it was insightful to identify the necessary aspects of placemaking that were lacking in my project. The importance of considering community insight proved to be the notably overlooked facet of the project, identifiable throughout the reading and through our experience walking through Borgo Bello. The key in placemaking, evidently, lies within the inspiration for community engagement, something which the smoothie stand lacked and Borgo Bello exemplified.

Walking through Borgo Bello with Orfeo introduced what a Zealous Nut would be in a community; someone who actively participates in the betterment of the space because of their emotional connection to it and their passion to share the same sentiment with others.  I realized during this class that the purpose of the zealous nut is to be an advocate for the space, not merely the one who maintains it. I am sure Orfeo invests a large portion of time to the Borgo Bello neighborhood, but in doing so he also shows others that the neighborhood is worth the investment and makes engaging in the neighborhood more approachable.

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