Placemaking for the People

Placemaking is a collaborative approach to creating more sociable neighbourhoods - from the bottom up. Involving people in the planning of their own community will put local needs and aspirations at the heart of the built environment - and engender a sense of ownership and belonging.

Placemaking is a collaborative approach to creating more sociable neighbourhoods – from the bottom up. It enables urban communities to initiate influence and input into the design of their own neighbourhoods.

Involving people in the planning of their own community will put local needs and aspirations at the heart of the built environment, and engender a sense of ownership and belonging.

What we said in 2016

Placemaking is emerging as an exciting and highly effective way to create more sociable shared spaces that are appreciated and used by the whole community.

Participatory placemaking means working with communities: engaging residents and allowing them to play a creative role in the processes of regeneration and transformation of neighbourhood.

The best results come about when the client-creative relationship focuses on genuine collaboration. We’d encourage all professionals - whether they're landscape architects, architects, urban planners or traffic engineers - to reconsider their role in future scheme design.

Looking back

Placemaking as a cohesive concept has been circulating in urban design and regeneration since the mid 90's, but when we looked at it three years ago, enlightened planners and disenfranchised communities had begun to see it as a way of residents reclaiming their streets' through consultation and collaboration.

Historically, communities had seen 'urban planning' as something that was imposed upon them by people who didn't have to live with the daily consequences. Including neighbours in the process seemed like a radical idea of giving people what they really wanted from the areas they lived in: and in having 'ownership', they felt a greater sense of responsibility, belonging and pride.

Where we are now

Residents have their rights relating to occupancy protected in law - but what happens beyond their doorsteps is still often in the hands of others. In terms of creating a true sense of 'ownership' and 'belonging', the next logical step would be to have participation in developing the neighbourhoods in which they live also covered by legislation.

We have seen a great example of this emerging in Berlin, where ‘Citizen Participation’ has now been enshrined in planning law. The three parties involved in the coalition government elected in September 2016 signed an agreement of cooperation for the period 2016-2021. One of the provisions in the Contract is for citizen participation as one of the guiding principles of urban development.

Consultation has long been recognised as part of Berlin's planning culture, but new building law stipulates that owners, leaseholders and tenants, alike now have a right of participation in all development measures. Policed by the Senate Department for Urban Development, the new law dictates that those affected must be given extensive opportunities to participate in the process.

In becoming part of the regulatory framework, placemaking is able to step out of its role as somehow a 'nice thing to do' and become an enabling force that gives everyone the opportunity for self-determined participation in the development of their city, their community and of society as a whole.

What's Changing?

The Berlin Coalition agreement states that 'everybody should have the possibility to participate equally in the success of the city'. Similarly, in London, Mayor Sadiq Khan sees transparency and the application of democracy as twin drivers of regeneration for the city's social housing stock.

Private developers’ ‘wipe the board and start again’ approach changes neighbourhoods beyond recognition and decimates community bonds.

As such, democratically elected London Borough councils are wresting control of unaffordable, impractical and insensitive schemes back from detached developers in increasing numbers - in the belief that the same residents who elect their councillors should be given a vote on the regeneration plans that will affect their lives.

In early 2018, Khan said: "I want to make sure people living on social housing estates, who have the greatest interest in their future, are at the heart of any decisions from the outset, by involving residents... we can make sure plans for estate regeneration help build a city for all Londoners."

The introduction of ‘democratic development’ signals a major shift in the way future regeneration projects will be planned and delivered. Rather than insensitive schemes imposed top-down, with disenfranchised residents kicking back, this helps ensure that scheme designers create places that have both relevance and resonance with residents.

How the story has developed