five-one-oh

Living local, urban design, sustainability, landscape architecture, and places in the East Bay. Design that works where it is.

Placemaking

Parking Day in Flint, Michigan

Parking Day in Flint, Michigan. Photo from http://www.aiaflint.com/

In downtown Detroit, an underutilized lawn was transformed into a beach at Campus Martius Park. Photo from pps.org

In downtown Detroit, an underutilized lawn was transformed into a beach at Campus Martius Park. Photo from pps.org

I’ve been posting about all things local here in the East Bay. What about you and the place where you live? What do you love about your neighborhood? What would make it even better?

On Friday, I attended the SF Placemaking Summit at AIASF (American Institute of Architects, San Francisco Chapter).The overall idea of placemaking is to create better public spaces: not just better looking, but open space that’s more useable by everybody in the community. Some of the principles are:

  • The community is the expert.
  • Public space should be an authentic reflection of the community.
  • Do little, easy things now and you can improve it if it’s working.
  • Public spaces are for everyone.
  • Each place should have several things to do.
  • Great public spaces are places to connect.

How is that different from good urban design? In my opinion, it isn’t. That may be an effect, in part, of the placemaking movement’s influence on urban design and the inspiration of William H. Whyte. In the 1970s, Whyte set up the Streetlife Project,a pioneering study of how people use spaces. Over the past 30 years, urban designers have learned to incorporate the principles of placemaking in our work.

The original PARK(ing) Day park created by Rebar in 2005. Photo from Rebar

The original PARK(ing) Day park created by Rebar in 2005. Photo from Rebar

An important placemaking concept is a bottom-up approach, and parklets are an example inspired by PARK(ing) Day. Downtown San Francisco is densely populated and built-out with limited room for new public open space, but there’s plenty of space dedicated to the automobile. Rebar, a local art and design studio, started PARK(ing) Day in San Francisco in 2005 by converting a single metered parking space into a temporary public park.The concept was so popular that now PARK(ing) Day is celebrated on the third Friday in September all over the world. Drawing on the success of PARK(ing) Day, the City of SF’s Planning Department adopted a policy for parklets that would last an entire summer or longer: Pavement to Parks. This has been the model for global parking space conversion to useable open space.

Central Detroit residents have transformed an abandoned gas station into a gathering place at Peaches & Greens, complete with new furniture and a pavilion structure to protect domino players from the elements. / Photo: Steve Davies / Peaches & Greens

Central Detroit residents transformed an abandoned gas station into a gathering place at Peaches & Greens. Photo: Steve Davies/Peaches & Greens

The SF Placemaking Summit was thought-provoking and inspirational. We asked a lot of questions that I’ll explore here in the coming weeks. For example, a lot of the placemaking happening in San Francisco is designed for hipsters. What kind of placemaking is for children or seniors? Are public spaces being created in all neighborhoods?

Parklets are just one way you might be able to create public space in your community. What are some others? Have you been noticing more outdoor places to gather in your town? Let’s start a conversation.

Sources: http://www.pps.org/

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One comment on “Placemaking

  1. Pingback: Why Build a Parklet? | five-one-oh

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