“The urban community has become lost in strategic planning, master-planning, zoning and landscaping… All these have their own purposes, of course—but they don’t address the principal question, which is the relationship in a city between public space and buildable space.”
— Dr. Joan Clos, Executive Director, UN-Habitat
Public space is inherently multidimensional. As the forerunners of the placemaking movement observed over half a century ago, successful and genuinely public spaces are used by many different people for many different purposes at many different times of the day and the year. However, because public spaces harbor so many uses and users—or fail to do so—they are also where a staggering cross-section of local and global issues converge.
Public space is for negotiating the interface between our homes, our businesses, our institutions, and the broader world. Public space is how we get to work, how we do our errands, and how we get back home. Public space is where nearly half of violent crimes happen—or all of them, if you count abutting spaces (and you should). Public space is where policing ensures safety for some but not others. Public space is for buying and selling, or for meeting, playing, and bumping into one another unexpectedly. Public space is where water management happens (or doesn't), where miles driven become CO2 burned (or doesn’t), and where ecosystems of urban flora and fauna thrive (or don’t). Public space is for conveying our outrage and our highest aspirations, as well as for laying the most mundane utilities and infrastructure. And when we let it, public space can be a medium for creativity, expression, and experimentation.
In short, public space is where so many tragedies and triumphs of the commons play out. And that’s why getting it right matters.
At PPS we believe that to get it right, the design and management of multidimensional public spaces requires a collaborative process that harnesses the equally varied knowledge and skills of many stakeholders. It requires placemaking. But we know from experience that the opposite is also true: The seemingly differing agendas of many stakeholders can be accomplished together through placemaking.
This September, we invite you to join us at the Placemaking Leadership Forum in Vancouver to learn how practitioners from around the world are magnifying their impact, making the most of limited resources, and building surprising coalitions across disciplines and sectors by putting place first. This event will revolve around the following ten Transformative Agendas, focusing on the shared value they can create when they come together in public space:
These ten topics all converge in our public spaces, and that’s why placemaking can serve as a common means for achieving diverse ends. The many silos that divide and shackle our governments, businesses, universities, and nonprofits do have common ground—and it’s all around us.