The Placemaking movement may have been given a big boost when Apple's CEO Tim Cook announced on Tuesday that the company's nearly five hundred retail locations are to become our new “Town Squares.”
Town Squares are the cornerstones of community identity: they host farmers markets; they are where we exercise our first amendment rights; they are where we celebrate local culture; they host hot dog and peach pie-eating contests; they are where we erect monuments to our history, they are where we meet each other and appreciate our diversity, and (most importantly) they belong to everyone.
As fans of both Town Squares and Apple products, we were of course thrilled when the company showed interest in “gathering places,” and we can only imagine the new line of software and hardware products the Town Squares will launch:
Project for Public Spaces is a New York City-based nonprofit which has been fighting to preserve, restore and create public spaces since 1975. We are grateful that the world's most valuable company, by attempting to co-opt and commodify the Town Square, has reminded us of why spaces that belong to everyone are so important. Apple stores conceived as "gathering places" can perhaps serves as “third places” and maybe even yield opportunities for education and community-based innovation.
True town squares, though, need to continue to be publicly owned and managed, locally defined, and independent from corporate branding and control.