Placemaking is not about the buildings in an area. It’s not even about the green areas, the shared spaces and the amenities on offer. Placemaking is about the community. The people that come together to make a place what it is and what it represents.
Whether it’s a holiday destination, a care home, a leisure complex, a new home development, a town or a city, placemaking embraces the soul and essence of a place by respecting and reusing the heritage and its roots. It needs to portray its uniqueness and all that a place represents to the outside world.
It is about showcasing the architecture, the historic monuments and the heritage to some degree. But it also capitalises on the local community’s assets, inspiration and potential and brings all those elements together to make it a place that people want to enjoy and thrive in. It’s about how that place makes you feel and the experience that being part of it gives you. Creating a place where people feel good, where they want to stay, to return and to tell others about the experience.
So when it comes to placemaking and coming up with a brand identity that’s going to put a destination on the map, you need to engage with its people. First and foremost.
The new residents, the old residents, the business owners, the local authority, the varied range of stakeholders including ambassadors from small business, arts and culture, education, environment and government who all have their roles to play in the area . You need to establish what it is they enjoy, how they view their area, how they use it and what they think makes it so special and different to other places.
Ultimately, it’s these communities who are the ‘expert’ on their spaces and you need to be able to tell the story for the area while engaging with the people who really believe in and connect with it. Afterall, its these audiences who will continue to tell the story for years to come.
The branding of a place plays a crucial role in communicating messages to a regional, national and even international market. The idea of being able to sum up all of the elements that a place represents in just one visual brand is a tough challenge. Reducing all that a place represents including its people, businesses and culture into one logo just isnt going to cut it so you need to pull in other elements too if you want to get your story across – straplines, advertisements, digital marketing, social media, strong imagery and video.
You see placemaking is mostly about perception. Everything you observe in that public space, the variation, the materials, textures, colours, we call it the ‘eye-level’ game, as well as the people you encounter all add to the richness of our view. And all of these factors influence how you see the area and how it makes you feel.
Community engagement is a solid starting point. If the placemaking process really has the community at the heart, then it helps keep them involved in any change, and even better, makes them feel part of it so it empowers the local people. If you can achieve this, then placemaking is off to very a good start.