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How Placemaking Builds Places And Communities

Full resource: Places In The Making
Date published: 2013
Source: MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Author: Susan Silderberg

This white paper offers a comprehensive and well-written insight into placemaking, from its historical roots through to key principles. It situates placemaking as central to community building, in that it helps create and strengthen social infrastructure. It does this in many ways, starting with an understanding that the community voice is as valid as the expert voice, and can reveal insights and needs which designers and municipal officials may not have known or appreciated without community input.

The white paper also explains how placemaking helps build communities when it is understood as a process, rather than an outcome.The actual process of making a place requires the collaborative efforts of a community of placemaking practitioners, working together towards their goal. By building upon community wisdoms and technical know-how in this way, everyday places can have the power to create civic connection and social capital.

Moving beyond principles, the white paper also describes the pragmatic sides of placemaking, such as the importance of a prototyping practice. Prototyping kicks the ‘virtuous cycle of placemaking’ into gear, which can ultimately help grow advocacy and momentum for a project, and more quickly than conventional processes typically allow. The white paper also examines a range of case studies from around the US, showing the different strategies which communities have used to empower themselves and create successful placemaking projects.

The white paper’s principal author is Susan Silberberg, from MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP). The research was supported by a DUSP research team, and through a partnership with Project for Public Spaces and Southwest Airlines.

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