Fifteen years ago, PPS created a new tool, the Place Diagram, that broke down the essential components of successful public spaces into for general categories: Access & Linkages, Comfort & Image, Sociability, and Uses & Activities. The diagram was a crystallization of knowledge gleaned from two decades working on public spaces, building on the pioneering research of William “Holly” Whyte. In the intervening years, the diagram has proved to be one of our most popular tools, due in large part to the cord that its common-sense message strikes with people.
You can imagine our excitement, then, when the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Soul of the Community (SOTC) study was released for the first time back in 2008. The study not only proved an empirical relationship between peoples’ attachment to place and local economic growth, it also showed that the strongest factors for determining that level of attachment were Social Offerings, Openness and Aesthetics. The way that these factors lined up with the four categories in the Place Diagram was uncanny, and finally offered hard data to back up what we had seen so often in practice. As we prepare to launch the new Placemaking Leadership Council, then, it is a thrill for us to announce that Knight Foundation will be a key sponsor of the group’s first meeting in Detroit next month.
“The Project for Public Spaces’ approach helps people transform their public spaces into vital places that highlight local assets, spur rejuvenation and serve common needs. It is directly aligned with Knight’s efforts to create more informed and engaged communities by, in part, seeking to increase the virtual and physical places where people can participate in and lead change,” said Jeff Coates, strategic initiatives associate at Knight Foundation.
The need for the development of broader Placemaking initiatives becomes more acute each day, as the world rapidly urbanizes. We need to move the public consciousness beyond one-off projects to a more holistic understanding of how place impacts our daily lives, and create powerful new collaborations that build an enduring climate of institutional, policy, and financial support for Placemaking. Knight Foundation’s pioneering work will be critical in moving this forward; we could not have asked for a stronger ally at this point in the movement’s evolution.
On a separate, but related note, we are also happy to announce that Katherine Loflin, a passionate independent advocate for Placemaking the world over, will be a keynote speaker at the Leadership Council meeting on April 11th and 12th. Katherine’s involvement will provide the Council with a deeper understanding of the SOTC results, and vital insight into what its findings mean for the future of public space in our society.
The Soul of the Community study is a landmark piece of research that finally quantified that which so many Placemakers have felt in their bones for so long. Not only will it inform the dialog when so many of those place-centered leaders gather in Detroit in four weeks, it will provide a solid foundation for broadening public interest in, and understanding of, the need for a swift and decisive re-focusing of our social, governmental, and economic institutions on place in the coming years. There is no time to waste. We’re excited to get to work, and we thank Knight Foundation for their generous support.