Urban planner James Rojas stopped by the PPS office yesterday with a briefcase full of toys and trinkets for a demonstration Place It! workshop. James started off by charging the PPS staff to build models of our own ideal childhood places using popsicle sticks, plastic gold coins, beads, figurines, and other assorted bric-a-brac. After each of us gave a "tour" of our model, James spoke about how he uses these highly interactive and imaginative workshops to help people articulate their wants and needs during public input processes for new public spaces. The idea, as he explains it, is to build a sense of ownership by drawing people into the planning process by creating a very tactile, open-ended , and fun experience.
"For urban planners, the end result of what we do is very physical; my thinking is that we might as well make the physical dimension part of the front end of the process," James explains. "And from the planner's side, when you come to a new community you have no idea what they want, or what they think. This is a way to draw that out."