Designing cities for people, not just cars and shopping centres

Designing cities for people, not just cars and shopping centres

Designing cities for people, not just cars and shopping centres

How often have you been somewhere and instantly felt good about being there?  Somewhere you remember with a fondness that takes you back there?  Is there a particular coffee shop that you’re drawn too? Is it the smell of the brewing coffee, the friendly smile that welcomes you and asks “the usual?”, the gentle hum of the surrounding conversations, ambient lighting and interior detailing?

Chances are it’s actually the combination of all these factors working in perfect harmony that makes this a place you feel good in.

Placemaking is the art of forming spaces that generate experiences, which create fond memories.

Environments that establish a connection, and makes you want to experience more.  Placemaking is not a new concept first gaining traction back in the 60’s by a man named William H Whyte, with the notional idea of designing cities for people, not just cars and shopping centres – who would have thought!?!  Today the company that Whyte inspired, Project for Public Spaces [PPS], work to create communities with their placemaking activities “it takes a place to create a community and a community to create a place”.

What makes a place that creates a community?  Where we live, work and play are all communities, differing from one location to another, bringing with them their own specific blend of people, cultures, activities and traditions.  The office tower where you work is as much a community as your local street, the strength of your connection with the community is strongly influenced by the place itself; how it facilitates connections, supports the activities of its community and brings together its tribe – people united by a common vision.

But what does it take to make a good place?  I believe the answer lies in a lot of different elements balanced harmoniously together.  When looking at the development of our public places there a few key elements that contribute to the appeal of a “place”.

A “place” that draws you in and keeps you coming back can take many forms.  It could be as simple as your local coffee shop or restaurant where you become a regular, through to the thoughtfully constructed community where you live.  What these spaces have in common is that they have adopted their own sense of personality through the architecture and styling they employ.  Larger developments incorporating a range of businesses and services offering multiple touch points, increase their amenity creating a destination that engages with you longer.  These elements all combine to create a sense of community and cohesion, which in turns instills a sense of belonging and acceptance.

Layered onto these building blocks are engaging and welcoming customer services, well considered signage and wayfinding, green spaces creating life and colour, lighting that creates atmosphere, amble parking, obvious pedestrian paths that navigate you through a space and easily identify spaces for congregation and public seating,

Each of these elements engaging your senses through colour, texture, sound and smell, creating an emotional connection with the environment, instilling that feeling of connection and belonging.

One destination, which is actively working to create this larger purpose of “place”, is Fortitude Valley’s “James Street”. The strategies employed by the wider James St partnership are focused on maintaining and driving the James St experience. The carefully considered strategic planning that goes on behind the scenes of the busy strip to execute their retailer mix, events and overall destinational experience, is highly targeted and well thought out.   Alex Douglas, Development Manager for James St, described that a highly analytical process is employed with the introduction of each new retailer and that support is given to those they wish to join the precinct and the implementation of retention strategies for others.  The success of the precinct also relies on the careful balance of Food & Beverage with Product based retailers to ensure that the precinct remains a holistic destination, offering an extended experience for visitors.

Marie Louise Thiele from the James St Initiative, described the precincts’ evolution over the last few years as an engagement with the community outside of retailing, through the introduction of events such as the Marie Claire Up Late joint venture.  Such events are not advertised outside the “James St circle” requiring you to be “in the know to know”, a strategy that has worked quite well for them, by connecting & engaging withing their own community.

The James St precinct is a prime example of how the art of place making has been embraced to create a community and destinational experience through a variety of touch points.

Do you have a favourite place where you feel embraced by the community?


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