POWER OF PLACE
Active community spaces keep us feeling connected, and, when people feel connected, communities can thrive
WHAT IS PLACE?
Place can be defined in so many ways, but I think Ripon DeLeon, Physical Experience Designer at Capital One, breaks it down in an effective way: “Spaces are defined by their edges (think walls or boundaries). Places are defined by the activities and engagements happening within them.”
At Common Place Projects, we like to think of place as any physical environment that creates a welcoming space for people to come together, connect, and share in moments of joy and inspiration. Places go beyond the physical boundaries of a space by connecting with us emotionally and physically.
WHAT MAKES A PLACE?
There are a handful of ingredients that turn a space into a successful place. Project for Public Spaces has been evaluating and elevating thousands of public spaces and common places for over forty years, and they have found that successful places usually share the following four qualities:
1. Accessibility - places that are easily accessible and well-connected to other points of interest
2. Comfort - places that are comfortable to be in and are aesthetically pleasing
3. Activity - places that encourage participation in activities and experiences
4. Sociability - places where people like to gather and return to again and again
Common Place Projects believes that people are also an important ingredient of place. People activate a space, help shape its story, and bring it to life. Great places are there for people and communities to grow and thrive. They make people a priority and serve community needs.
THE POWER OF PLACE
Places, and the experiences we have in them, have the power to change us. We’ve all had that feeling when we visit a special place or enter a distinctive space —maybe it changes our emotions or produces a physical reaction. On an emotional level, great places have the power to stay with us, inspire and awe us, and uplift and embrace us. Places also have the power to draw us back and make us feel connected to something bigger than ourselves.
The Soul of the Community Initiative (SOTC), started by The Knight Foundation, conducted a three-year study to identify and understand the factors that connect residents to their communities and the role that connection can play in an area’s economic growth and well-being. SOTC surveyed 43,000 people in 26 communities and found that qualities such as social offerings, openness/welcomeness, and the aesthetics of a place —in other words, its arts and culture, its diversity and accessibility, and its parks and green spaces— ranked higher than offerings such as education, safety, and the local economy as a driver of attachment for picking a place to live or open a business.
No more are we reminded of the power of place than when we are unable to visit and experience them as we normally would. As we find ourselves in the middle of a pandemic and as society struggles to find a new normal, we have at times felt confined, disconnected, and apart from each other. Neighborhoods are full of empty public spaces and gathering places, and business districts are full of vacant storefronts, shuttered restaurants, and empty office spaces —all of which once served as places that brought us together.
placemaking projects are the small but mighty building
blocks on the road to revitalization
How do we build back our shared spaces, find ways to support and inspire our communities of neighbors, colleagues, and customers, and rebuild those meaningful places and personal connections that enrich our lives? … Together —one placemaking project at a time!
Placemaking projects are the small but mighty building blocks on the road to revitalization, community growth, and economic development. They have the power to bring people together and forge connections to the individuals and places that make up our neighborhoods. These connections grow into a shared investment in our spaces and places and make room for and inspire larger, more permanent projects and change. This moment calls for creative solutions that turn our present challenges into new opportunities.
Investing in placemaking is an important and necessary step to restoring our shared spaces and communities. And, you don’t need a lot of space to make a big impact —activations, of all shapes and sizes, can be meaningful, have an immediate effect, and bring lasting, positive civic change and economic growth to an area. These playful transformations are so important, now more than ever, as we begin to pick up the pieces of these difficult years and expand our footprint back into our shared spaces. With an artful approach to design, imaginative programming, and a passion for community, we can elevate any space into a memorable place!