The Design Partnership
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Placemaking

The Design Partnership provides place making and place activation consultancy services throughout NSW and Victoria. TDP have produced Placemaking reports for clients throughout Sydney, Newcastle, Central Coast and the Hunter regions

You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality
— Walt Disney

Placemaking lives exclusively in the plane of human thought. It is mysterious, intangible, subjective and experiential.

All manner of research, design and construction may see the creation of a technically beautiful place – but without the spark of human interest and engagement, it may, somewhat like the paradox of Schrodingers’s cat – not even exist.

The art – the science of placemaking, involves the practitioner identifying mechanisms that when applied to suitable places, seeds the community’s imagination and identification with those places. Places where their inner ear tells them it is somewhere that will uplift them, engage them or entertain them.

Setting the stage

Successful placemaking paints a new picture of a chosen area – where the canvas is the streets, laneways, parks and gateways that lead to it.

The media may include a range of structural features – but it may also include ephemeral street art, theatre, dance and dining experiences. These may be conventional – they may be experimental. The artists are the community and businesses who are encouraged and empowered to investigate and enliven the stage.

These new sights, sounds, experiences and memories will help residents and visitors see ‘their’ place in a new fun and exciting light - that leads to an appetite for more.

The momentum draws more people. More people - especially at night - will boost public safety, boost business and perhaps lead to infrastructure projects - all ultimately enriching the quality of life.

Photo by julief514/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by julief514/iStock / Getty Images

The TDP approach

The core focus is the creation of experiences (in the moment) and memories (longer lasting) that shape a person’s understanding, views and perceptions of a place. They help you decide whether you want to be there.

 Placemaking in our opinion shouldn’t be a ‘thing’ or a discipline. It is the outcome, not a process. It should be the outcome of every project sponsored by government, business, or community group - and involving architects, urban designers, landscape architects and engineers. It is fine grained and can be different for every project.

Delving deep into local culture and history is critical to understanding experiences and memories. Our methods include: triangulation studies, behavioral mapping, morphology analysis, community workshops/interviews and meetings, and precedent analysis.

We have vast community consultation experience involving all sectors of the community – ranging from government and business sectors to indigenous, sporting and broader communities. We don’t like using gimmicks. People see through gimmicks.

Serendipity is not an accident
— Neil McInroy - Center for Local Economic Strategies
 Maitland After Dark Event 2016

Maitland After Dark Event 2016

We just prefer to talk to people – face to face - and to give them good coffee. We find this method works far more effectively than the sometimes rowdy ‘town hall’ approach – where dominant voices drown out legitimate alternate views.

Placemaking needs activation

Placemaking without activation is a sterile exercise. At TPD we seek to ‘activate’ suitable places – as opposed to simply building ‘stuff’ - to attract more community and visitor use of a place’s existing gems – in turn leading to further business investment, tourism, community pride and greater quality of life.

This is a process about making or evoking memories of a place. For instance, is it common to find street theatre there? Is it common to find cafes open at all hours? Is it a place they feel safe in – particularly at night? Are there galleries that spill onto the street? Have all these activities attracted unique and quirky businesses that can engage shoppers for many pleasant hours.

‘Place activation’ can be a temporary activity that in the short term leads to a creative reinterpretation of a public space – and in the longer term, sees the community adopt that reinterpretation as the norm. However, Long term infrastructure projects may eventually stem from temporary ‘activation’ processes,

A critical success marker for a placemaking strategy is that when exhibited, the community is quickly able re-evaluate how they think about a public space – and re-imagine how it can be used in ways that enrich their culture and quality of life.

TDP can prepare placemaking and place activation strategies for cities, towns, villages, public spaces and new developments – but our broader approach sees placemaking integrated into every part of our work – where it is strongly linked to our CPTED and our cultural projects.

 Here are some of The Design Partnership’s placemaking projects: