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Do we need a new approach to placemaking?
24 January 2020
Places fundamentally shape the quality of people’s lives and at Arcadis everything we do is about improving quality of life.
That is precisely why we spent much of last year examining successful (and unsuccessful) examples of placemaking across the country to challenge the current approach and spark a debate about the future of place and placemaking as we enter a new decade.
We brought together over 100 professionals delivering or involved in placemaking through a series of events across the country, culminating in the publication of our Liveable Places report. Liveable Places identifies Arcadis’ Five Fundamentals for creating successful communities – Community, Funding & Delivery, Design & Public Realm, Collaboration and Sustainability – setting out ten clear and tangible recommendations to deliver successful placemaking.
But why is place so important?
The world is changing. By 2050, an additional 2.5 billion people are expected to live in urban areas. We need 300,000 more homes a year in the UK alone, yet only around 195,000 are being built each year. The varied and ongoing challenges presented by climate change and deprivation are increasing the pressure on infrastructure and places and it is imperative that we address them head on.
Whilst great examples of placemaking are all around us, the prevailing approach to placemaking is simply not working. It is not addressing these core challenges and is not providing the high quality, sustainable places that promote a sense of community and enhance the health and wellbeing of those that live, work or play there.
A new approach to placemaking?
It is clear that we need to look beyond the purely functional. Places should be inspirational; they should make you feel safe and secure but also connected to something much bigger. They should create opportunities, not stifle them
Arcadis believes this calls for not only a new way of thinking about place but, more than that, new ways of designing, creating and delivering places. Instead of focusing purely on the physical and spreadsheets around development profit and land value, we need to start recognising and prioritising social value and the impact on people’s lives. Too often placemaking ignores these. Even while recognising the financial realities of funding great places, we also need a new approach to capturing placemaking benefit beyond traditional – and increasingly unsuitable – business case approaches.
Effective placemaking requires clarity on what a place wants to be and why. There is a welcome, long overdue shift towards listening to what communities want and need. Good placemaking cannot be done without genuine engagement with the communities at the heart of the process.
Finally, we must also recognise that creating a place is just the start, not the end. We must create enduring places that are capable of standing the test of time, with environmental, economic and social resilience firmly built in.
Through Liveable Places our aim is to reframe the debate, setting the tone for a new conversation around the future of place and placemaking as we embark on a crucial decade of change.
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