Placemaking and Sense of Place

Consider for a moment the difference—if there is one—between “Placemaking” and “sense of place.”

Placemaking, even if put into the clearest of urban planning terms, can mean many different things, but for now, let’s consider the simplest possible definition:

“…public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness, and well being.”

However, dive unprotected into even the shallow end of official Placemaking, and you may be overwhelmed by terminology, about both the process as well as the philosophy, but never mind, in the end it is all about intentionally transforming existent and newly created public spaces into public places. Space into Place. Placemaking.

I think this is what we all attempt to do the moment we occupy any “space” for more than a day. Confess. You’ve picked up flowers at a corner convenience or nabbed them out of an unseen corner of someone’s garden to fill the ubiquitous paper wrapped glass in your hotel room. Right? Space into Place—a punter’s definition.


As a punter, I may think of and define Placemaking differently than urban planners do but I am not alone. Visit Placemaking Is… on Project for Public Spaces’ web site for examples of reader definitions of Placemaking. PPS received over 750 contributions from around the world. Out of those selected for their site, this is my favourite:

“…the process of giving space a story that is shared by many.”

By the same token, twenty people might choose twenty different favourite definitions from PPS’s offerings. But, I contend that Placemaking in a public urban planning sense and sense of place in a personal, philosophic sense are much the same.

“You feel in your bones that you are in a special place.” *

Strangely—or not­­—when I am visiting a place I do not know well—do not know its history personally—I may only have this feeling while in its graveyards. Odd, but true, for where else is “so much story shared by many.”

Well, enough said on my personal thoughts on the ideas of Placemaking and sense of place which I bring forward as an introduction to a series of posts on creating a sense of small-scale community, a sense of place, in large urban centres like Vancouver.

What do you think defines Placemaking and sense of place? Please share with us in our comments section.

*Quoted from the Boston Globe article, “Developer creating housing and community “, in which developer Dan Gainsboro talks about making “more thoughtful places to live.”

By | 2016-11-15T09:05:57+00:00 June 29th, 2012|Ideas on Living "Large" Urban-Style|

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