Home > Tips & Tricks, Tools & Ingenuity > “When You Focus On Place, You Do Everything Differently”-PPS

“When You Focus On Place, You Do Everything Differently”-PPS

Placemaking: “a dynamic human function: it is an act of liberation, of staking claim, and of beautification; it is true human empowerment.” (definition by PPS)


Will a major road enhance or deteriorate two adjacent parks?

How do you make great place? I’m inspired to ask this question after Tuesday night’s discussion about the proposed 2011 South Campus Entrance at the Traverse City Recreational Authority Board meeting. Details on that in the future, but what was interesting encouraging was the strong position by many members on the board that their mission was clearly to make a special place, not just to design a road for motorized vehicles. In fact, those members convinced the board to delay the approval to spend their share of the funds until the primary issues under their domain, access for people not in cars, is further addressed.

When creating a place, it’s best to go slow and do it right.

The nonprofit planning, design and educational group, the Project for Public Spaces provides this useful & instructive diagram as a guide to placemaking, which needs consideration in our community as we set priorities, in places like Franke Rd.

Click for larger view

Inner ring=key attributes, middle ring intangible qualities, outer ring measurable data.

How & where do we apply this?

Traverse City is on the cusp of holistically grasping and implementing placemaking as an approach tool to public spaces.  Our most successful attempt, the The Village at the Grand Traverse Commons, is attracting national attention for it (nice photos).  I’m also hearing “place” based approaches in meetings about The Bayfront, The Grand Vision, Division St., Downtown, Franke Rd…., this is a positive sign, but we need patience, practice and a willingness to experiment if we will be able to move beyond the soundbite.

In part, as is the case with yesterday’s post about Division St., the process to prioritizing the details is unclear. Are we really considering the smallest details when we approach these projects? Or is the placemaking soundbite simply something considered, but not a driver of the decisions?

Moving cars along Division St., or Franke Rd., is easy, what’s arduous is the slow process of creating an enviable place at the same time.

I’d argue that placemaking needs to be the driving force and its meaning arises out of the community. However, we need to apply tools, like the one above, as well as PPS’s 11 Principles of Placemaking, which are below. (If even one of the following principles intrigues you, click-through for the full explanations:)

  • The Community Is The Expert.
  • Create a Place, Not a Design.
  • Look for Partners.
  • You Can See a Lot Just By Observing.
  • Have a Vision.
  • Start with the Petunias: Experiment, Experiment, Experiment.
  • Triangulate.
  • They Always Say “It Can’t Be Done.”
  • Form Supports Function.
  • Money is not the issue.
  • You Are Never Finished.

We have started working with the ideas expressed in the diagram and applying some of the 11 principles as a natural product of public process. Many other cities are doing the same thing. The fact that a BLOG about pubic space in northern Michigan has an audience, is a positive. It’s a sign that there are many of us in the community searching for tools that help us be involved steering the use of our public space into places that we truly want and serves our needs, not just our least desirable habits.

For me, I’m visual. I need tools like the diagram above.

What do you think, is it applicable?

Where would you like to see it specifically applied? How?

  1. lmaynard
    November 18, 2010 at 8:59 am

    14th st, 8th st, Division St, Grandview parkway, state st., south airport, garfield st. Great post!

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