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Placemaking Week 2017 Speaker Spotlight: Short-Term Experiments, Long-Term Change

Ethan Kent
Aug 17, 2017
Jan 8, 2018

As you know by now, Placemaking Week is taking place this October in Amsterdam and we’re gearing up to showcase inspiring stories of transformative places around the world with you at this groundbreaking event! Over the coming weeks we will be featuring a series of posts highlighting speakers and session details to start the conversation around the topics and experiences that will be featured at the conference.

We are continuing to build upon the important conversation around placemaking from the “bottom-up” through small scale implementation projects that fall under our “Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper” philosophy, also known as “tactical urbanism” or “urban acupuncture". With these projects, we can really take a closer look at how people are the drivers behind great places. In an era of city-led development, how can locals scale up change, from short-term experiments to a long-term transformation focused on place? How can grassroots enthusiasm for public space be harnessed to create better cities?

Urban change from the bottom-up will be a focal point at Placemaking Week, and we’re excited to have Nate Hommel, Director of Planning and Design with Philadelphia’s University City District, lead a conversation on how to enhance the impact of this small-scale approach. Joining him will be a full panel of innovative placemakers including Mike Lydon, Principal of The Street Plans Collaborative, Robin Abad Ocubillo, Urban Designer at SF Planning Department, and Patrick Piuma, Planning Director of the Louisville Downtown Partnership and co-founder of City Collaborative. Exploring how people can drive transformation at the neighborhood level, the session will center on the stories of cities that are forging a path toward deeper engagement, better partnerships, and lasting change.

Patrick Piuma, Robin Abad Ocubillo, Nate Hommel, and Mike Lydon

Cities like Burlington, Vermont, are already witnessing a community-led placemaking movement firsthand. At a public workshop in 2015, local planners initiated a new biking and walking plan by  engaging members of the community in a frank conversation about the shortcomings of Burlington’s existing biking and walking infrastructure. Local officials encouraged creative dialogue around improvements, and asked participants to mark their comments on a large map. From there, locals maintained their involvement, alongside partners like Mike Lydon's The Street Plans Collaborative, attending scoping meetings and public commentary sessions. Eventually, the draft of Burlington’s Inaugural Walk-Bike Plan was released for public commentary. Soon, a Final Master Plan was released, which highlighted residents’ concerns about safe pedestrian and cycling spaces and led to the adoption of important measures like traffic calming, separated bike lanes, and better intersections.

Activating vacant lots in Louisville, Kentucky also required bottom-up approaches. A City Collaborative project called ReSurfaced, that Patrick Piuma co-founded, worked to reimagine underutilized public spaces like vacant lots and parking areas. Engaging with locals to gather ideas, the initiative “pre-vitalized” spaces to act as experiments in placemaking. Breathing new life into these areas, ReSurfaced “turns spaces into places” by bringing live music, food, and other programming to Louisville residents. This temporary measure demonstrates the ability of locals to re-claim their space over the long term, and to put it to good use as a hub for arts and entertainment.

‍One of Patrick Piuma’s vacant lot projects in Louisville, Kentucky - the ReSurfaced soccer pitch | Image by Patrick Piuma

These are just a few of so many examples worldwide of how Lighter, Quicker Cheaper projects have helped people re-invent and revive their public spaces. Importantly, such projects demonstrate how cities can transform their one-off pop-ups into platforms for citizen-driven change - which is one of the main learning outcomes we hope to achieve at Placemaking Week. And, as we have mentioned, a wide range of fantastic implementations exist in Amsterdam that we will be featuring and visiting during the week of the conference, so we are excited to tie this conversation not only to local projects in the host city, but also through live implementations that will be taking place throughout the week... stay tuned for more information on our implementation workshops!  This is just a taste of what is to come at Placemaking Week, so make sure to join us to learn more about how projects like these come to fruition!

Make sure to register now for 2017’s Placemaking Week taking place this October. This year Project for Public Spaces collaborates with partners in Amsterdam—STIPO, City at Eye Level, Placemaking Plus, and Pakhuis de Zwijger where the bulk of the event will be held—to host a dynamic program of sessions and workshops, where attendees will develop and share concrete strategies for advancing placemaking locally and globally.

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Learn about PPS's Three-pronged Approach to Drive Change