If the whole thing can be absorbed in a glance, like a good poster, and if every place looks like every other place in the park and also feels like every other place when you try it, the park affords little stimulation to all these differing uses and moods. Nor is there much reason to return to it again and again.

Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

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Placemaking Blog

Lived experiences impact perceptions of a place

2015 has been a defining year for me. It has been a year of hard work, and achievements; but what defines it most for me is how much more nuanced my understanding of cities and the forces that work to shape and define communities has become.

The realisation  that everyone’s Sydney is unique to them and their lived experience has been crystallised through the surveying that I have been a part of with Place Partners. Everyone’s perspective and opinion is true for them, and determines ultimately how they view and interact with their city. My Sydney is very different to your Sydney which is very different to the person seated next to you in the office; and it was not until I was able to recognise this and truly understand it, that I could separate my own biases and judgements about a place from my work with it. I am not claiming to be wholly unbiased, as that is not only impossible but also dangerous as a place maker. You need to have emotions about a place and to be invested in its outcomes in order to do it justice. But it is just as important to be able to recognise that your own opinions and biases aren’t the only source of truth about a place and hold only as much value as the next persons when analysing it and attempting to come up with solutions to help address or solve some of the challenges facing a site. - Emma Fitzgerald

Optimism & persistence key to place making

In 2015 I learned that this job does not get any easier. Reading back over my end of year wrap up from 2014, I was reminded how I felt that I had experienced a baptism of fire in my first year as a placemaking consultant. Well, that feeling hasn’t subsided – perhaps the burner has even gone up a bit.

I learned that when you face a task that you have no idea how to do, the worst thing you can do is not even try. You might not know where to start or what resources are there to help you, but at least start by doing. You will most likely encounter setbacks and your confidence may drop, but persistence is much more valuable than surrender.

Take our Broome project for example. Our mandate at Place Partners was to build community in a new housing estate that will eventually double the population of Broome. We have been running events and activities over the last three years to encourage residents to get to know each other and establish networks and partnerships with existing organisations. We’ve run events that have had zero attendance and we had endured periods where we questioned the overall impact of the program. Yet, at the conclusion of 2015, we have just come back from our most successful large event and feedback has been that we have truly been part of helping this community become more resilient and connected.

Optimism and persistence are key. For when you think that you aren’t making a difference, it’s the small wins and gradual cultural change that are required to build critical mass for measurable impact. Making cities better for people cannot be achieved overnight, but improvement will never occur if you give up at the first hurdle. - Chris Patfield

Kylie's Postcard From Tokyo

When I pictured Tokyo from afar it was place of skyscrapers and racing cars, bright lights and kooky cat lovers. So when Monocle selected it as this year’s Most Livable (sic) City I was less than convinced.

I often tell people that you don’t have to visit places to have a connection with them; to understand whether they are the kind of place you would enjoy spending time in, or maybe it's a place you visit just to say you have. This innate understanding of ‘place-ness’ can be captured as a ‘place brand’ and is at the very heart of placemaking - the essence that makes each location unique.

So I went to Tokyo with a fair amount of ’tick the box’  first time city visit - and I was more than happily surprised. Tokyo certainly has areas like Shibuya and Shinjuku that offer the fully fledged sensory overload - and that are particularly spectacular at night. It also has many many surprisingly calm, modest and engaging neighbourhoods. Places like Daikanyama with its quirky laneways, Parisian boutiques and world-class book shop (T-Site). A visit to Ueno and Inokashira Park saw me enjoy a once in a lifetime experience - cruising the central pond in my own swan paddle boat after a fabulous traditional lunch of yakitori and sake.
Monocle magazine’s home in Tokyo is in the charming and village-like Tomigaya where I enjoyed some of the best service I have ever had at Cafe Mimet. Their simple and perfectly considered placement of a coaster for a sweating glass of refreshing lemon and soda captures the Japanese cultural concept of ichi-go ichi-e, that roughly translates to ‘one encounter, one opportunity’.

I was staying in Sendagaya, just up the road from the famous Harajuku and the adjacent Yoyogi Park and there were certainly plenty of first time experiences and perfect moments, all incredible diverse; from Harajuku girls parading their fabulous outfits to a peaceful prayer in the middle of an urban forest at the Meiji Shrine, from a tiny caravan selling amazing curries to queues of 100s waiting for shaved ice. What makes Tokyo so engaging is that it is constantly asking you to be present, to connect, to see, to listen, to feel, to get involved. There is certainly a high level of courtesy that can feel forced at times but that mostly reminds you that high quality, high density living needs a higher level of consciousness of your impact on those around you. It is a balance between being part of the commons and the opportunities life presents to be individual.

So Monocle, I guess the question now is, no matter how ‘livable’ a city is ranked - would you actually like to live there?

And for me - the answer is yes.

Guest blog: Deborah Singerman on the importance of streets

When I first lived in Sydney in the late 1980s, I house-sat in the sprawling, leafy Upper North Shore. I could not drive then and it was all very different from the more compact Hong Kong and London that had been my most recent homes. Streets with no pavements, delineated by grass verges, curving, winding with no real grid to follow confused me. This was magnified by my getting very lost on a cold, wet night a year or so later, in the Chatswood backstreets as I tried to find the main road to the station. I admit to a hopeless sense of direction but when the streets only add to the miasma it does not help.
 
I have since mostly lived in Sydney’s inner-west. I value the much more regimented street layout with its recognisable pattern and increasingly generous number of zebra crossings. Ashfield station runs local and express trains to the CBD and further out west. Lifts and glass walkways were added for the Sydney Olympics. There are seats in the street running from the station towards the shopping centre, and a statue of 19th century Chinese merchant and philanthropist, Quong Tart, who lived in Ashfield.
 
The rebuilt civic centre and library area also has a ground floor café, and cafes have opened in the shopping centre and on the other side of the station. One has internet service and home-made Indian food that attracts what are apparently homesick overseas students. There are also more apartments around the station, unfortunately out of my price range.
 
The epitome of community for me was when one of the guards at the station one night approached me as I left the train. She asked whether I had lost a ticket the previous evening. This was pre-Opal and the ticket was in fact a quarterly with a lot of money still on it. I thought I’d dropped it at Town Hall, but it seems that I had dropped it at Ashfield station and the station master was holding it for the owner – in this case, me. I showed ID, and had to say when I had purchased the ticket, what amount was still on it and, for safety’s sake, the registration number. I was so relieved and thankful that I still cannot but smile at any of the guards from that night.


Deborah Singerman runs her own writing, editing and project managing consultancy specialising in the urban built environment and community. @deborahsingerma


Sitting together is fun and relaxing; image courtesy of Ashfield Council, Frolic in the Forecourt; photographer Uri Auerbach

Beautifying the Beauchamp - Tactical Urbanism for the Festive Season

The City of Sydney is running the #sydxmas #bestwindow Instagram competition in order to encourage local businesses to dress their windows with creative displays this festive season. The business’ windows will be judged on their interpretation of the theme ‘Christmas in the Villages’, along with other criteria such as creativity, effort and inventive use of materials. It is great to see these displays popping up all over the city, as it certainly adds something special and tactical to our streets.

Place Partners helped a local pub across the road from our office enter the competition. The Beauchamp Hotel, on the corner of Oxford and South Dowling Streets can be seen with a very colourful display above its main doorway – an accumulation of dozens and dozens of pink, orange and yellow pom poms. It is an example of a type of street enhancement that can be done with very little money and very little time. We are proud of our modest display and we hope that it will do its little bit help brighten up Oxford Street this festive season. Let us know what you think!

 

 

Mainstreaming of Collaborative Consumption

A few things will hallmark the year of 2014 for me, and one of them is jumping into the collaborative consumption economy – making the transition from being advocate to participant. GoGet and Car Next Door have been things that certainly made my car-less life easier – not having to put everything I buy through the ‘can I carry this?’ or ‘can I take this on a bus?’ filter.

While these companies are part of the collaborative economy, it has only been hosting on Airbnb that gave me the true feeling of being part of it. It isn’t the sharing of my physical space that makes me feel ‘part of it', but more the sharing of stories and experiences about my city, my neighbourhood and 'Australianisms'. It is this sharing of local knowledge and face to face interaction that gives Airbnb its edge over generic, de-personalised hotel chains, and they (airbnb) have spent a lot of time and money on building their brand and culture around this – defining what it means to be part of their community.

But what happens when a community or trust based company grows from local to global? A few of our friends also host on airbnb and we have all seen a pattern that generally, the early adopters are the ones who are more likely to swap stories over a beer or breakfast, while the late adopters are less likely to engage or understand the brand, and more likely to show up on your doorstep expecting a hotel. So will the shift in consumer values from ownership to access and sharing be a trend that becomes part of future life? Or will it be something that was big in the 2010’s, really great for a while, but didn’t quite sustain itself in the mainstream because people didn't quite get it. - Elise, Place Maker

The Future Is Built Bottom-up

Over the past few years, I have volunteered for several organisations including the Sydney Peace Foundation, the Yale Club of Australia and Architects without Frontiers. Why, people ask – aren’t you tired after work, and just want to go home and eat pasta? Yes, yes I do, I do want to go to the beach and drink cider instead of working on project plans, reviewing documents or talking to potential sponsors on the weekends. Compared to the amount of my contribution as a volunteer, however, what I receive from volunteering is much bigger – it makes me feel like a local. After long and short gigs in South Korea, USA, New Zealand and Vietnam, Australia has been my home for the past 5 years, the only place where I have felt like I belong.

Of course there are several factors that contribute to such emotional attachment to a place, including family and friends, security and immigration status. There are also other, often overlooked and intangible factors such as connecting to our neighbours, our streets and our city. I know that I can trust the ladies at the downstairs laundromat with my apartment keys, I am a regular at several cafés and restaurants on my street, and I enjoy the city events. There is a common theme that runs across the communities that we work with – everyone just wants to socialise and belong, whether it is though local volunteering or incidental meetings. Sometimes there is that fear of the unknown and different: some buy groceries from ethnic stores, some from Woolies; some drive private cars and some take buses; some speak English, some don't; some just simply look different.

There are still too many neighbourhoods in Australia being gentrified and divided, widening our cohesiveness as a nation. There are still too many neighbours, wanting, waiting for that opportunity, that subtle invitation to join a conversation. This year, I learned to facilitate that conversation. – Julia Suh, Place Maker

A Crash Course in Place Making

“Chris, your internship will be at Place Partners.” Perfect! I just landed the coolest gig out of anyone in my class. Now… what is a place-making consultancy and what do they do?

Now that I have been working at Place Partners for over 9 months, it is very clear that nothing could have adequately prepared me for the challenges that I was to face in this job.

I have been working on projects all around Australia. This includes working with my former colleagues and staff at Macquarie University, to help improve its campus. I have flown to Broome to throw a big end of year party to help build a community in a new housing estate. I have learned from senior consultants, working in communities such as Wentworthville, Gympie, Hawks Nest and for corporate clients such as Optus on place making strategies, community engagement and marketing/branding strategies. Being thrown in a deep end, at a coal face, while being simultaneously baptised via fire - I don't think any cliché could cut it to describe how the experience has been for me - all while being completely on trend with the most innovative and creative approaches to community engagement and planning.

So what does a place-making consultancy do? Anything and everything that can be done to achieve the objective of making places better for people. There is a clear direction in trying to uncover what a place is and what it wants to be, which ultimately involves researching the relationship between a place and its people. While some may consider this value-add, I now consider it fundamental. While urban development has the capacity to divide communities, a place making strategy can restore the trust that is broken between people and decision makers as a result of shortsighted solutions to complex urban problems.

There’s never a dull moment at Place Partners. It is a pleasure to be working with some of the most driven and inspiring people that I’ve ever met. As every project is different, dealing with different people, different dynamics and different issues, I expect that 2015 will not get any easier, but I hope that it will be just as rewarding as this year has been. – Chris Patfield, Junior Place Maker

This year I learned how to use the word ‘place making’ in a sentence!

Having worked in the field of architecture in Australia and overseas for a few years, I decided it was about time I rediscovered the reason why I wanted study architecture. After a brief hiatus travelling around North America and getting lost in the neighbourhoods of beautiful cities like New York, Toronto, Chicago, New Orleans and St Louis, I returned to Perth ready for a change. I concluded that I was less interested in the bricks and mortar of our cities, and more interested in the way we use spaces, our patterns of movement and how we inhabit the tangible ‘objects’ that architects create.

Although I had heard the word ‘place making’ before, 2014 was the year I understood what it really meant because this was the year I moved to Sydney to join Place Partners. I learnt that that the word ‘place’ means much more than simply a location. Its social, cultural, political, environmental and economic fabric defines the nature of a place, and the ways in which people interact with it determine whether it is successful or not. I learnt that the act of place making is about enhancing the characteristics, which exist there already, determining a place’s potential and responding to the values and aspirations specific to the local community. I learnt that place making goes beyond the confines of the design process, and draws upon several fields including anthropology, place management and marketing in order to adopt a holistic approach to the creation and maintenance of great public places. And finally...I learnt that the word ‘place making’ pretty much sums up why I enrolled in an architecture degree all those years ago! – Claudia Rosario, Intern

UN Habitat - Public Space Mandate

There is only a couple of weeks to go to get your feedback into the process of developing a public space mandate - chec out the images below to see what the key messages from the Future of Places were and then send your comments to info@futureofplaces.com.

 

We will try to upload an editable version soon - in the meantime you will have to read the text in the attached images - sorry!