As we search for meaning and face-to-face relationship-building in an increasingly busy, seemingly disconnected world, the trend to put placemaking at the core of new developments is an important one that has wide-reaching benefits and implications.
Placemaking, when done well, is about inspiring people to stretch their imaginations and reinvent public spaces as places that add a beating heart to a neighbourhood or specific development. By making the connections between people and the places they inhabit and share stronger, effective placemaking can make a genuine difference, as long as it is a truly collaborative process that maximises the value of shared spaces for a diverse audience.
When Placemaking Goes Wrong Community Cohesiveness Suffers
Despite what seem like good intentions, placemaking goes wrong when the vision for it is misunderstood and poorly-advised. A prime example of placemaking done poorly is the Docklands precinct of Melbourne. Originally intended to extend the CBD and entice new residents to what was portrayed as a dynamic inner-city lifestyle, the reality for too many years were empty corridors of vacant retail space that dissuaded, rather than attracted, residents and visitors to use it. As the apartment boom in the area peaked and then troughed, developers started to catch up on what should have been dealt with all along – better communication with local council and project marketers to understand who the audience for the developments would be and what infrastructure and community environment they would want to utilise to turn the property developments into an attractive, welcoming offering for both investors and home-buyers alike.
Timeless Design That Transcends Trends
As suburbs evolve, the developments that sit within them need to be well-designed, and carefully considered. By ensuring the vision for the developing region is understood, development should be thoughtful, meaningful and in tune with the future demands of its potential residents and visitors. Such forward-thinking requires extensive planning, community consultation and research, with developments and associated community spaces built to stand the test of time, rather than remain as dated vestiges to an era that has already passed. Lack of connection to the public spaces that service them and no visible signs of imagination for the ways those public spaces could be better enjoyed leads to developments that are unappealing to a demanding market.
Community–Based Communication is Key
When community-led participation and input is taken seriously, placemaking that is authentic and engaging capitalises on the assets of the local community it should service, with insights into that community’s potential, motivation and desires at the forefront of all decision-making. To help you understand the flow-on effects positive placemaking can have, communication that enables key stakeholders to let their voice be heard is a positive first step -and something that helps developers avoid costly headaches from problems that can occur – and could have easily been avoided.