Revisiting the Social Life Project’s most read articles of the year

As we begin a New Year, we at the Social Life Project wanted to thank you, our readers, for making 2023 our most successful year yet! When we started this project during the pandemic, we never imagined we would have the readership and support that we have received over this past year. We could not be more thrilled to see so many of you engaging, sharing, and adding to this important discourse.

To show our appreciation, we wanted to wrap up the year by recapping your favorite articles. We hope you enjoy!

Our most popular series explored "Social Life for All," looking at the public places where women, men, children, couples and friends thrive:

Public Spaces Where Women Thrive
A photo essay that celebrates the social life of women in public spaces where women can thrive.
Men Hanging Out - Public Spaces Where Men Thrive
Men’s need for social connection is often overlooked, but this cannot be the case in the midst of an epidemic of loneliness. This photo essay looks at where male social life thrives.
Public Spaces Where Kids Thrive: The Places That Work for Kids Work for Everybody
Kids bring energy and enthusiasm for life into public places and public spaces where kids thrive are great for people of all ages.
Couples and Friends Hanging Out - Public Spaces Where Affection Thrives
When trying to identify the great places around us, a good approach is to look for where the couples are.

You weren't shy when it came to digging into the big topics. Many of our top read articles explored next steps and the future of the placemaking movement:

Addressing the Epidemic of Loneliness: Five Campaigns to Restore Social Life in Our Communities
We are in the middle of an epidemic of loneliness. These 5 campaigns to restore social life in our communities will get us out.
How Placemaking and Social Life are Helping Win the Climate War - 11 Ways
When it comes to addressing climate change in a way that actually moves the needle, the creativity and community-orientation that always defined the global Placemaking movement can be the foundation for the future of communities everywhere--and for our planet.
Next Steps for the Global Placemaking Movement
Imagine if the places where we live were shaped for, and from, our social lives, re-imagined to make it easy for us to gather, shop, have fun, eat together, and be around people different from us. we would collectively have an impact on the health of our planet.
The Place Man, A Documentary
We have recently created a documentary, The Place Man, about our work in placemaking over the last 50 years, made by the wonderful Guillermo Bernal. It got us thinking about the state of the placemaking movement and what’s next.

(The documentary about our work, The Place Man, was released on January 1st, 2024! You can watch it here.)

A popular topic this year was how to improve our streets and sidewalks, the arteries of social and commercial life:

Creating the Streets and Sidewalks We Love - Shifting Our Focus From Cars to People
Paradigm-shattering change will happen when streets, sidewalks and intersections are transformed into community gathering spots through the simple act of giving human beings priority over motor vehicles.
Let’s Turn Buildings Inside-Out
Bringing the inside out onto the sidewalk blurs the lines between public and private space, creating one dynamic, thriving ecosystem.
Streets as Places to Come Together: The Next Evolution for the Transportation Revolution
Getting our streets and sidewalks right means shifting our focus to the social life of our communities. Once community-led improvisation is a priority, we can take control of these spaces and make them active, inclusive, and just plain fun.
Passeggiata: An Exuberant Italian Custom We Should All Adopt
A regular stroll through town is not just fun—it also boosts our sense of community

(We were surprised to find an older article about the Italian passeggiata in the top favorites this year. We are glad to see the interest in promenades and car-free streets growing every year!)

We have been putting more and more focus on the damage caused by Killer Intersections and these articles seemed to really resonate with you:

Killer Intersections vs. Shared Space: From Intersections that Divide to those that Connect
There is no bigger opportunity than creating an intersection that connects rather than divides. Connecting people to businesses and to each other helps everyone – social life, community, the local economy.
Campus Martius: The Catalyst for the Transformation of Downtown Detroit
“Every day, I can see thousands of people enjoying, using, and interacting in Campus Martius. The transformative success in social and economic development is priceless.” - Bob Gregory
How Midtown Manhattan Lost its Soul and a Plan to Get it Back
Starting in the 1970’s and 1980’s, we used New York City to test strategies for reversing the acute degradation of the public environment that followed the city’s fiscal crisis. Most of the demonstration projects we undertook were adopted as dominant practice.

At the heart of what makes places great is their amenities, and it was great to see that these articles were a big hit this year:

A Bench on Every Corner... Is More Than Just A Bench
A bench is not just a bench. What happens around it makes it catalytic. This seemingly simple amenity can grow to become a key for transforming not just a corner but an entire community.
How Seating Shapes Welcoming Cities
Benches and seating are not objects; they are mirrors to our social behavior. We have seen it time and again, that where there is seating, there is life.
Throwing (Good) Shade for Placemaking
Shade can become an intentional strategy — developed with communities, led by communities. If we do it right, the addition of shade in all its forms can have an enormous collective impact on walkability, Social Life, and climate resilience.
Ice Cream - The Social Life Magnet
A simple ice cream stand can incite a renaissance of activity in an area by anchoring a variety of commercial offerings and public spaces.

Finally, articles focusing on what makes community life thrive were favorites throughout the year:

11 Transformative Agendas to Restore Social Life in Your Community
These transformative agendas can be a foundation for the future and a roadmap for communities to improve the “places” and after COVID, Build Back Better that can help us with ideas to shape our communities for the future.
What Happened to Small-Town Life and How to Recapture It
we found and learned from some truly wonderful examples of small-town social life, and it is these glimmers of hope that can lay the foundation for new attention to public spaces in smaller communities.
Chautauqua: An American Utopia - Where Social Life Flourishes
Chautauqua.“There’s no place like it. No resort. No spa. It is at once a summer encampment and a small town, a college campus, an arts colony, a music festival, a religious retreat, and the village square. David McCullough
Hammondsport, New York - A Small Town That Works
Hammondsport is a town of surprises with streets full of surprises. Improvisation is part of the culture that draws you in in so many ways that you just want to keep exploring.

And that's a wrap for 2023! Thank you again, our readers! We are looking forward to a new year of creating content you love, growing the renaissance of community connection, and improving places around the world. In the new year we will be focusing on:

  • Placemaking-based campaigns for improving health and addressing climate change
  • How "killer intersections" destroy our communities and what we can do to fix them
  • Deep dives on particular cities and communities – what works and what could be better

As always, we eagerly accept images and ideas for topics that relate to each of our themes/campaigns. We would love to hear what you would like to see from us. Please take this 3 minute survey to leave your feedback:

Finally, if you would like to help us continue our work, we welcome donations to the Placemaking Fund.

Thank you, and Happy New Year!

The mission of the Social Life Project is to incite a renaissance of community connection in public spaces around the globe. Our work grows out of more than 50 years devoted to building the global placemaking movement. It is an initiative of the Placemaking Fund, along with PlacemakingX — a global network of leaders who together accelerate placemaking as a way to create healthy, inclusive, and beloved communities. Through our online publication, presentations, campaigns, and catalytic projects, we can create transformative impact on communities everywhere.

If you are interested in helping to build a community-wide campaign or catalytic interventions, presentations, exhibits, or in supporting the cause in some other way contact us.

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