Starting with Sidewalks is the Key to Creating the Social Life We Want
"Rich street life is no frill. It is an expression of the most ancient function of a city—a place for people to come together, all kinds of people, face-to-face." — William "Holly" Whyte
There is nothing like the thrill that one gets when they go to a great place again and again. Great places are addictive dwell in your memory, often emerging to cheer you up and give you incentive to go back or just explore in your mind the pleasures you had or what you might have missed. They can be in your community/neighborhood at a corner cafe, a special store or park. Often they are right in front of our noses if we will just look.
Turning Buildings Inside-Out: By designing our buildings differently, we can blur the lines between indoor and outdoor life.
The best places exude happiness and pleasure. Placemaking is meaningless without the idea of fun at its center. Why put in all this work to making public spaces better, unless the definition of "Building it Better" also means that these spaces bring joy to our lives.
Highlighting a Community’s Identity by Creating Great Amenities: A bench at a corner; shade from a canopy or tree; a drinking fountain; a simple bollard...all are like life support to everyone in a community...And, the best communities place them where people need them. Comfort is the knowledge that a community cares.
Bring Back the Public Square: Historically, public squares served as common ground. Today, we need to reinvent these community anchors to rouse vital public interaction. Squares—which can take the form of parks, markets, even shopping streets or plazas—become sources of civic pride, sites of protest and conversation, and social hubs.
Capitalize on the Appeal of Waterfronts: The best waterfronts showcase a city’s rich history and offer diverse activities. Waterfronts can tap into their unique qualities to create a dynamic place to live, work, and play. With one-of-a-kind commercial spaces, entertainment venues, parks, plazas, or markets, waterfronts frequently serve as a city’s living room and highlight its connection to the water.
Imagine if the places where we live were walkable and 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 all kinds of people of all ages and backgrounds. With this mindset, we would fundamentally change our communities, and collectively have an impact on the health of our planet.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” - Margaret Mead
Using Markets to Bring Social Life Back Everywhere: Markets are hubs of community life; People are drawn to markets that attract a diverse set of visitors; they tend to shop at markets with friends and family; and the energy of a market allows us to "bump" into neighbors and friends, because a trip to the market is not a chore but an experience to be shared. That’s the reason why markets are basic community gathering places.
The corners of intersections are places where people gather; they are gateways; and, they can give identity to the history and people that made that community special. They are the most basic form of public space, linking not only neighborhoods but also marking where people's paths naturally cross. When these spaces are built to welcome people instead of vehicles — you have the makings of a strong, interconnected community.
Restoring social life in rural communities starts with a rethinking of streets, public spaces, and community institutions. COVID has helped us to realize that we need to make significant changes
"There are more and more of us fighting for a different vision of the world—a world that takes care of our most precious resources: the air we breathe, the water we drink and the places we share." — Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris
“Benches are artifacts, the purpose of which is to punctuate architectural photos. They are not so good for seating. There are too few of them; they are too small; they are often isolated from other benches or whatever action there is on the plaza.” — William H. Whyte, The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces
Brooklyn has become a very different city over the last 30 years and has taken on a role as a major global city with a unique quality quite different from its neighbor across the East River. Its unique and dynamic qualities lay the foundation for how communities can redefine public spaces.
All Hands on Deck: 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.
"Of Porches there are two sorts: the decorative and the useful, the porch that is only a platform and the porch you can lie around on in your pajamas and read the Sunday Paper" – Garrison Keillor
These campaigns pave the way for the co-creation of stronger, healthier and happier communities.
Barcelona is so deep in remarkable and distinct places and its reputation is so immense, it is important to call them out. What can we all learn from Barcelona about how to create these places in other cities?