Place is not a static thing. We are at a crucial point in metropolitan urban development, with significant changes to Australian cities predicted over the next decade.
With the urban spaces we know shifting so rapidly, this is the ideal moment to ask—what makes a place great? Which sites are significant for individuals and communities and why? Are the landmarks we recognise as characterising the city today the same landmarks we’ll see in the future? And can memories make a place?
What is ‘placemaking’?
Placemaking, from TEDxSydney partner CBRE’s perspective, is about putting people at the heart of the design process. It’s about creating a strong connection between a place and the community to create a ‘go-to destination’.
Placemaking happens when buildings are transformed into vibrant urban spaces that offer wellbeing, pleasure and inspiration. CBRE builds on that by creating places that contribute to prosperous, connected, creative and thriving localities and communities. This happens through great relationships and collaboration between landlords, developers, retailers, creatives, providers of transport, levels of government, business/retail groups and others.
Why is placemaking so valuable to a community’s development and wellbeing?
“Whether placemaking is harnessed to bring about strategic objectives and create success, it is a very deliberate exercise,” says Janet Martin, Pacific Regional Director of Workplace Strategy and Change Management at CBRE.
“A range of players, working together, can lead this process to both understand and realise great benefits to the community. We need to keep in mind people are a part of several communities; placemaking in a major business centre is just as critical as placemaking in a more local or domestic setting.
“People want to feel connected and be part of something vibrant and exciting during their working week or in their ‘down’ time in various settings. Business and community success can also be determined by the planning, development and activation of a particular place.”
How do we achieve good placemaking?
Placemaking is both a process and a philosophy. Placemaking inspires people to collectively reimagine public spaces as the heart of every community, creating a strong connection between people, their experiences, and the places they share.
Good placemaking comes from observing and asking questions of the people who live, work, and play in a particular space, to understand their needs and aspirations as well as the collective needs and aspirations of the wider community.
A great public space cannot be measured by its beauty alone; function must always trump form if we are to legitimately serve the local community. When people of all ages, stages, abilities, and socio-economic backgrounds can access and enjoy a place, while playing a key role in its on-going development, that is when we see genuine placemaking in action.
Top tips for good placemaking
According to CBRE, there are a vast range of factors, but those that stand out include:
- Having a shared vision and purpose for the place
Search for jewels that exist within the community already. By amplifying local community assets, engagement happens by fostering and encouraging that sense of ‘local’ pride. Learn about the area’s history and aspirations. By adopting a ‘seek first to understand’ approach, ideas become more authentic and appealing to the people they most affect.
- Creating strong structures, especially in arts and culture, alongside a project sponsor who shares the vision
Art and culture need to be central to a placemaking project’s design. Early employment of these essential resources with supportive sponsors will help to facilitate projects that are well designed and ensure that their social, physical and economic placemaking strategies are more inclusive.
- Ensuring that form supports function and beauty
Although design is incredibly important, community feedback is crucial to shape a great place. Cities around the world, including Greater Sydney, are in a race to attract great talent to their communities to fuel strong economies. Today’s talented workforce gather in well thought-out places around the world, looking for progressive areas that cherish their history while also embracing new thinking.
Sydney CBD is a truly diverse and inspiring place. After a tumultuous two years, the arts and culture sector is beginning to emerge again, as people are longing for connection and a sense of identity across the city. As a connector of people to spaces, we now have a chance to reconnect our community with the city and help redefine the experience of the Sydney CBD.