Here we will explore the idea of successful placemaking in this new decade and outline a roadmap to five key elements to creating vibrant and resilient places in the post-pandemic world.
It’s important to clarify that the future of places depends on the combination of two existing areas of expertise: place branding and placemaking. The powerhouse, which is a fusion of both, is the backbone to successful places. Moving forward, in referring to placemaking we are inferring the usage of both trains of thought.
Now that we have clarified our understanding of placemaking, let’s move onto the five key elements to successful placemaking.
Establish a shared vision
Here is where we would talk about place branding. Before anything, it’s important to establish a shared vision for the place that must be based on its real identity. To align this vision with place identity and ensure its support by all stakeholders, we head to the second element.
Engage with the community
No one knows better about a place’s problems, weaknesses and virtues, than the community itself. Identity, and therefore vision, come out of this arrangement. Engagement will create a sense of belonging and a sense of belonging builds pride. This in turn defends and helps to promote the place through collaboration and collective thinking.
Think beyond hardware
Hardware can be understood as the immobile aspects of a place, its buildings, its architecture, and its landscape. But a place is much more than that. It is necessary to involve the other two dimensions of this ecosystem: software and peopleware. Software concerns the activities that give life to the place and peopleware refers to people and their cultural behaviour, which in turn creates the identity of the place.
Sometimes a good place doesn’t need new tangible products or buildings, just a good program of activities or the promotion of existing cultural characteristics.
This pandemic has revealed the obvious to us. A place is much more than its territory. While countries that were exclusively concerned with their physical and face-to-face aspects suffered, others, already engaging in deterritorialization and dematerialization (accelerated by the pandemic) managed to create virtual experiences. This allowed places to maintain the global presence of their places in people’s minds, even if no one could, in fact, go there.
To be supraterritorial is to understand that a city/place is a stage for meetings and opportunities. If this cannot be done physically, it is necessary to seek other ways of connecting people and places, which, in fact, is nothing more than connecting people to people.
Learn from chaos
Look for antifragility. This concept suggests that we go beyond resilience by learning and strengthening from events of great negative impact. At the heart of antifragile thinking in terms of places, we see each element listed (and several more). We should however note something that Nassim Taleb, creator of the term ‘antifragile’, calls optionality. The use of this concept adds to the idea of not putting all of one’s eggs in one basket. More explicitly, concentrating all of our efforts on one single sector of economic development, such as tourism. What happened to places that were 100% tourist-driven during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Through these five key elements we can see how successful placemaking goes far beyond physical, architectural and urban issues. We see how places have been inserted into complex ecosystems that need to be rethought. This ranges from decision-making spheres to the economic development matrix itself. Regardless of where this change of vision will begin, it is important to always remember the Shakespearean maxim:
WHAT IS THE CITY BUT THE PEOPLE?