The twentieth century was about getting around. The twenty-first century will be about staying in a place worth staying in.
At Place Partners we like to engage in lively conversation about the finer points of placemaking and recently we were musing on the definition of place and how it is different to space. So after pondering on this question, I decided on the following:
Space is one-dimensional and is only a physical location.
Place, however is multi-layered and subjective. It is created when the physical attributes, emotional connections, and psychological perceptions are combined to impart individual meaning and value. Therefore, a single space can be the setting for a multitude of different places depending on how it is used, read and perceived.
John Agnew (1987), a political geographer outlined three fundamental aspects of place as being:
1. Location that defines the specific place
2. Locale that is the material setting for social relationships, or the ‘actual shape of a place within which people conduct their lives as individuals
3. Sense of Place that reflects the subjective and emotional attachment people have to place
Doreen Massey, another human geographer suggests that it is both space and time that come together in place, and therefore “a particular place not only brings together local and global influences, multiple cultures and identities, but it also contains historical influences which shape its present, as do its plans and potential for the future” (in Buchanan 2009:63)
The process of defining a place for us is through a holistic understanding of it – the physical, social, economic, cultural, historic and political influences as well as the behaviours and perceptions of users and what the community needs and aspirations are, now and for the future.
It is the inherent complexities of creating places that are meaningful and respond to the local context that makes being a placemaker constantly enjoyable and interesting, yet challenging.
April McCabe, Senior Placemaker
On the recent Place Partners team trip to Melbourne, Atherton Gardens was the first stop on our list of things to see. We were keen to check out the public realm surrounding the Atherton Gardens estate and see how the new 152 home mixed housing development physically integrated into the existing community assets.
Instead of simply wandering around and looking at the architecture of the new building (which is rather cool, some what sensitive and fun all at once) I decided to do a basic place based assessment of its public realm offer.
The assessment is loosely based on Project For Public Spaces (PPS) The Power of Ten concept and looks at the existing and new public spaces, with this concept in mind. PPS Power Of Ten proposes that a great place generally needs 10 activities or reasons to be there to keep it vibrant and alive.
I wanted to see how many obvious ‘things to do’ were physically provided for and comment on the opportunities that these provisions/amenities faced moving forward.
Here we go, Atherton Gardens Fitzroy, public realm - Things To Do
- The Matroshka (Babushka) Dolls 2002, by Bronwen Gray:
This public artwork is bright and inviting, it beautifies the area surrounding it and draws people in, it is not an interactive work by definition, but people do tend to sit on it/climb it for a photo… We did.
- Wooden Dog sculpture:
Public art and seating, this 5m long wooden dog sits atop a small grass hill, it functions as a seat and gives the impression that its uses may be vast given the imagination of children.
- Children’s Play Grounds X 4:
Each of the 4 playgrounds varies slightly in scale and offers different play equipment. Each of the play areas connects to another with clear sight lines.
- Scattered seating:
The area has many little clusters of seating that is grouped in such a way that it would function well for socialising and small groups of people.
- Quite seating areas:
These areas of seating are away from activities and play equipment and commonly have good shade and small planters, peaceful spaces for contemplation and reading.
- BBQ area:
Well catered for spaces with multiple BBQ’s picnic tables and weather protection.
- Community garden:
Well-established community flower and vegetable gardens, with signage in multiple languages – however the gardens are fenced off and only open to the public during certain hours.
- Soccer field:
An open soccer field, with goals and nets, all line markings were well maintained and the perimeter had a low fence to stop balls going run away.
- Cricket nets:
One single netted cricket pitch in very good condition, but without built in wickets
- Basketball courts:
The fenced in basketball courts were in good condition, although they may have been placed a little close to the residences (the sound of a bouncing ball can really travel)
Some of the opportunities that these public realm amenities could address in the future are
So in conclusion the grounds of the original 60’s high-rise housing development has 10 clearly defined things to do that are provided for. If each of the children’s playgrounds were added to the count there would be 14 things to do at Atherton Gardens… Not bad at all!
PPS use The Power of Ten as a place making tool to help turn a place around, so for Atherton Gardens to have 10 things to do means it has great potential to be a great place for people.
If you have kids and want a nice place to have your coffee in Fitzroy I would happily recommend Atherton Gardens as well worth a look and the quantity and quality of the play equipment on offer is terrific.
By: Jos Maple - Jnr Place Maker - Place Partners
Making cities has traditionally focussed on the relationship between economy and environment. Making places adds in the social and cultural. Sydney's Creative City Cultural Policy Discussion Paper is asking people to think about the difference, but it may not be going far enough...
Sydney is primarily a consumer of passive cultural experiences: ‘passive’ defined by City of Sydney, being the more traditional arts events like new years eve, going to a museum, an art gallery, the theatre, or eating at that new restaurant everyone is talking about. However when it comes to supporting less traditional forms of culture and even supporting the seedbeds of culture in the community, it seems that Sydney still has a way to go.
The Creative City Cultural Policy Discussion Paper was released last month for community consultation and starts to address this gap in the diversity of cultural life and experiences. Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore says “We’re looking for ideas on how to boost Sydney’s creative arts, and how to encourage more people to go to shows, invest in local artworks, and take part in the arts themselves. We also want to make sure creative people can afford to live and work here.”
The Discussion Paper identifies 8 key directions:
Improving access, creating markets: Supporting markets for cultural products and experiences.
New avenues for creative participation: Fostering the growth in creative expression by Sydneysiders.
A vibrant creative economy: Supporting the growth of creative industries.
Fostering precinct distinctiveness: Encouraging distinctive cultural and creative expression in the City’s villages.
A partner for big ideas: Partnering on local and international projects that display outstanding creativity and imagination.
Sector sustainability: surviving and thriving: Support Sydney’s cultural sector to build stronger and more sustainable organisations and events.
Sharing knowledge: Encouraging a hunger for new ideas.
Global engagement: Being a magnet for the best thinkers, artists and cultural leaders of our time.
In terms of place making, Direction 4: Fostering precinct distinctiveness through cultural and creative expression is of particular relevance. We think the Policy’s definition of creative place making is pretty spot on (excerpt below), however when this definition is translated into ‘options for action’, the policy seems to have a focus on physical places and events, rather than people.
Definition of creative place making
“Creative place-making is about shaping both the physical and social character of a precinct around arts and cultural activity. Creative places bring together a range of stakeholders to animate public and private spaces, revitalise streetscapes, improve local business viability and public safety and bring diverse people together to celebrate, inspire and be inspired. Embedding culture and creativity in the fabric of our urban environment can catalyse change, as seen in many revitalisation efforts taking place locally and internationally, and create unique and distinctive experiences that offer significant benefits to urban communities. In turn these initiatives incubate and accelerate entrepreneurs and cultural industries that generate employment, new products and services, attract visitation and draw a range of complementary businesses and workers to an area.” (p. 54)
Options for action (p. 56)
Ideas from the Cultural Policy Discussion paper that forum goers were excited about:
A few of the new ideas:
Overall, the Cultural Policy Discussion Paper is exciting and a big step in the right direction. It will be interesting to re-visit this topic in a year to see what is working, not working and still yet to be rolled out.
If you have a great idea about the Policy Discussion Paper, you have till the end of May to tell the Council about it here. Or if you can keep it to 140 characters you can tweet with the hashtag #creativecitysyd
I have heard many definitions of place making and met and heard from many people who use the term place maker. I have also spoken to many clients, government, corporate and community who are increasingly confused by what place making actually is and how you can do it. Is it getting the community actively participating in changing places to meet their immediate needs or is it long term planning and integration into systems? Does it have to be one or the other? Can it be both?
At Place Partners we have begun to identify 3 streams of place making:
1. Strategic Place Making - we define this as integrated, cross disiplinary and long term planning for holistic places that consider the socail, economic, environmental and cultural aspects of place. Its where we most comfortably fit in terms of our expertise and our approach.
2. Tactical Place making - we define this as lower cost, quick or short term interventions into the fabric of an existing environment that have a strategic or long term objective.
3. Opportunistic Place Making - perhaps this will be controversial - but we define this as those interventions that may also be lower cost, quick or short term but that do not have strategic or long term objectives. These can most often be activities delivered by an individual or smaller groups and directly responsive to their personal needs or desires right now.
I'd be really interested in your response to these definitions and where you think you or different place making activities fit in...
Director, Place Partners
The Blue Box gallery launched on Valentines Day 2013 as Place Partner’s love letter to Oxford St which is not only our home, but home to big and small bookstores, cafés, retailers, Taylor Square, pubs, clubs and good looking Paddington and Darlinghurst residents. If you’ve been clever enough to spot one of our five artworks for the Blue Box gallery on Oxford St you may want to know more about why these little masterpieces are popping up in this corner of the world.
Image: Our Oxford St book share, can you spot the blue boxes?
Place Partners saw the need to draw some positive attention to previously neglected parts of the neighbourhood. The initiative began as a way to bring some enjoyment back into walking down Oxford St, to get people to pause and interact with their surroundings and maybe pop into a local shop or two. With the existing community book share station located at our front door, we thought this block would be the perfect place to launch the Blue Box Gallery and create a little hub of small scale experiences.
It’s been really fun to see these empty boxes fill with art and then go on to get some very interested looks on the street. Our resident artists have been busily putting together their artworks which include a bleeding heart, cranes flying out of a book, a miniature bookshelf, an unusually pious coffee cup and paper flowers popping out of the page. One of the artworks was so attractive that it was unfortunately already poached for private enjoyment. If you know of a rogue blue box, please let us know so we put it back up to share with Oxford St.
Images: Blue Box Brand stencil & installation
The project is intended to have a collaborative spirit and we invite anyone who has something beautiful to share to use these blue boxes as an art space. We hope to have a growing list of artworks to add to the gallery and gradually share the love down the street. Eventually the Blue Box gallery will be a robust and creative collection of perspectives and experiences reflective of Oxford St’s history and character.
The concept is essentially simple but one that we hope will eventually have a larger and more complex effect on the relationship that people have with the area. We believe that even a small, simple and inexpensive effort to improve spaces has the potential to act as a catalyst for lasting change. We have already witnessed many people taking a moment to look up at our boxes and engage with their surroundings in a positive way. We’re looking forward to adding more boxes to our line up and having more people realise how wonderful Oxford St is.
Article written by Place Partners intern: Rebecca Sio
It's not often I imagine that a place maker is invited to the Venice Architecture Biennale so it seemed like a big must do when I was invited by Cathy Lang Ho, the curator of the US Pavilion to participate as a panellist. The Biennale is a pretty amazing event all round with a fair sprinkling of starchitects and a serious number of the hopefuls as well as the genuinely interested. It is split into 2 sections - the pavilions in the Giardini and the curated exhibition in the Arsenale. This year's theme was Common Ground and the Director David Chipperfield stated “I want this Biennale to celebrate a vital, interconnected architectural culture, and pose questions about the intellectual and physical territories that it shares. In the methods of selection of participants, my Biennale will encourage the collaboration and dialogue that I believe is at the heart of architecture, and the title will also serve as a metaphor for architecture's field of activity."
Its hard to say how successfully this was achieved as I for one found many of the exhibitions a little too difficult to 'read' which perhaps is not the best place to start if searching for commonalities. I think this is why the US Pavilion, while not formally 'architectural', was so attractive to visitors who really seemed to enjoy the simplicity of the design as well as the humanity of the concepts and projects shared. The title of the US exhibition was 'Spontaneous Interventions; Design Actions for the Common Good' and featured 124 projects, actions, ideas and communications that aim to in some way improve our relationship to the city and its spaces. (Go to http://www.spontaneousinterventions.org/statements for the curatorial statement). What I do think is interesting, and perhaps a sign of the times is that the 'winning' pavilion; Japan, was selected by the jury due to the collaborative approach between architect and community while the US also received a special mention "for ‘Spontaneous Interventions: Design Actions for the Common Good’. This interactive installation impressed the Jury with its celebration of the power of individuals to change society in small but effective ways. The unpretentiously simple presentation was a delight."
Perhaps change really is afoot!
The main highlight for me though was participating in the panel discussion ' From the Local to the Global: Scaling up and scaling down" with Mirko Zardini, Canadian Center for Architecture; Cameron Sinclair, Architecture for Humanity; Lars Kruckenberg, Graft Lab and Make It Right Foundation; and John Ewing, Ghana Think Tank. The discussion aimed to compare urban actions from around in the world and to consider common as well as culture-specific causes. The big question was 'How can tactics that originate in one locale be replicated in other situations?' Another issue that was addressed was the question of scale and replicability. While much time was given to considering governance and financial sustainability or alternative methods of working it was my comment regarding the potential scale of influence of this type of thinking that received significant support. The idea being that instead of trying to build individual ideas into long term businesses or the like, that we concentrate our energies on influencing the overall process of planning and building our cities to ensure that all ideas and opportunities can have a place.
Hopefully we will see this idea take seed and continue growing throughout the world!
Here are some photos for you also of some of my favourite things from the trip
In the midst of a chilly Sydney winter, Kylie and Sarah (Cred Community Planning) headed off to Broome last week for a few days of community consultation for the Broome North Community Activation Plan.
Apart from the fact that the weather was beauftiful (yep, 30°C and sunnny...making the rest of us in Sydney very jealous), the trip was a great success. Not only were Kylie and Sarah able to get some great feedback from the community with a street stand, interviews and workshops, but they also felt very warmly welcomed by all the locals.
We're all really forward to working on this project over the next few years!
And just to make you feel that little bit jealous as well, I'll leave you with this amazing photo that Kylie took on her afternoon down on the water...
We are really excited to be working with Singleton Council to help kickstart a place making program in 5 places across the LGA.
Last week we were busy visiting Broke, Bulga, Jerrys Plains, Hermitage Road and Singleton, talking with the local communities about what makes their place unique, what their community needs and what quick-win projects they could do to make their place better.
We had a great response to the workshops and met some fantastic ‘long locals’ and ‘new locals’. They bought a lot of enthusiasm about their place and discussed some great ideas about how to make them better. Even the Singleton Argus (the local newspaper) got excited about the project in an article 'Think tank pink plan'.
We are looking forward to seeing the results, and of course photographic evidence of each of the communities rolling up their sleeves, achieving their projects and celebrating the success.
We've all been really busy working away on the Penrith City Centre Public Domain Masterplan that we've been commissioned to undertake in partnership with Spackman Mossop Michaels and Cred Community Planning. We've been engaging with the community through business and shopper surveys, street stands on High Street as well as interviews and a community workshop.
We've also been spending a lot of time on High and Station Streets familiarising ourselves with the people and businesses by completing place audits and behaviour mapping. Everything is going smoothly, and we still have some really exciting work ahead of us!
I just got back from a great (and too quick) visit to the US; travelling through Los Angeles, Portland, New York and Detroit. If there was a time to be releasng 'Doing it Differently', it really is now. With a seemingly complete lack of funding for even basic maintenance of infrastructure lets alone new works, community led projects or 'tactical urbanism' is really the most appropriate and achievable action to get quick results on the ground.
The good news for me is that the book was really well received and that I will hopefully be able to let our American and Canadian friends of local bookstores and distributers that you can buy the book from.
Alternatively you can always buy online and we will deliver to your door just visit www.placepartners.com.au/ps/doing-it-differently
For those of you who dont know me, I was fortunate enough to work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York for 9 months at the end of the 90s and the internal courtyard garden is still one of my most favourite places in the world. Thanks to the Design Curator Paola Antonelli I enjoyed a beautiful spring day there and managed to get this shot in of Doing it Differently in situ.
Watch this space bacause I will be sharing more stories form the trip soon