On placemaking

In this post I point to some of the literature on placemaking to inform the idea of digital placemaking which I introduced in the previous post and will develop in subsequent posts. O’Rourke and Baldwin (2016, p.103) note the “interconnected themes of place identity, attachment, and sense of community.” This gives us a sense of the room there is to consider a range of meanings. For understanding how it relates to hybrid learning spaces.

The idea of placemaking will grow in importance in higher education as discourse about student engagement and retention increases, especially in the context of the TEF. Kent (2016) notes its relevance to recruitment too. O’Rourke and Baldwin (2016) highlight the importance of engaging students in placemaking, however, in the next post I will explore how placemaking may be more usefully understood as an outcome of engagement, and how we make and leave our mark through our experience of the places in which we associate.

In the context of learning

Learnng in the context of placemaking can be understood broadly to include formal, non-formal and incidetntal learning where it can be a by-product or unintended consequence of experience, or as Carvalho et al. put it, “Learning is woven through the fabric of our daily lives.” (2017, p. 1)

What is placemaking?

Several authors address the question ‘what is placemaking?’ It is usually asked in the contexts of architecture, urban planning and facilities management where there is a greater emphasis on the profession’s interest in making and managing spaces for others. Sociologists, and I suggest educators, are more interested in an ontological view of place being an outcome of association and space as it is experienced, though in the context of educational development and digital learning, consideration is needed in relation to developing the built pedagogy (Monahan, 2002) of formal and non-formal learning.

  • “Placemaking is imagining and reinventing public spaces to strengthen the connection between people and the places they share.” (Kent, 2016)
  • Place can be understood as networked learning “the subtle connections the physical, digital and the multiple methods people use, everyday, in coming to understand the world, and act and comply within it.” (Carvalho et al., 2017) This view of networked place is interested in the extended situation created by the connections between the digital and material world. Within this there are opportunities for understanding BYOD for example.
  • Wyckoff (2014) proposes four ways of defining ‘standard placemaking’ (“the process of creating Quality Places that people want to live, work, play and learn in”). These are,
    1. Strategic placemaking – the targeted development of Quality Places to attract social groups;
    2. Creative placemaking – the shaping of the physical and social character of a neighborhood, town, city, or region around arts and cultural activities through partnerships;
    3. Tactical Placemaking – the process of creating Quality Places that uses a deliberate, often phased approach to change, including ‘Tactical Urbanism’ and ‘Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper” (LQC)’ – a local development strategy, an iterative means to build lasting change.
  • “Placemaking is community participation for a particular purpose.” (O’Rourke & Baldwin, 2016, p. 104);
  • Creation of an “inclusive, community driven design in the built environment to create places of meaning,
    and neutral areas for people to meet, socialise and observe” (ibid citing Brunnberg & Frigo, 2012).
  • Placemaking is the interplay of the needs and the aspirations of the community enacted in the design of the built environment.” (Prakash Kelkar & Spinelli, 2016).

Ideas of meaning, being, belonging and becoming, and of community voice and agency feature in these discussions.

For the ‘built’ I environment I prefer to read ‘constructed’, to allow for social and digital spaces.

What makes a great place?

Places are spaces “that people care about and want to be in” (Wyckoff, 2014). PPS suggest great places are characterised by being,

  1. accessible and well connected to other important places in the area.
  2. comfortable and project a good image.
  3. attractive to people encouraging them to participate in activities there.
  4. They are sociable environments in which people want to gather and visit, again and again.

PPS cite Drew Faust (Harvard Common Spaces Program) who says, “We must continue to generate the conditions for serendipitous encounters—the unexpected conversation that becomes a fruitful partnership or the passing observation that sparks a discovery or innovation.”

Cities, corners or connectors?

Inherent assumptions about scale and agency reflect the context of this diverse literature. I think there is room for a new understanding of placemaking.

Towards co-construction of lived space and place

Campuses, digital networks, blended and augmented spaces are centres of social activity, and as such academia needs to explore place as an outcome of the Learner-Generated Context (Luckin et al., 2011). It is not enough to view learning space as something that is made for us. Instead, the users of academic spaces need to be understood as place makers. I will explore this next.


Brunnberg, L., & Frigo, A. (201)2. “Placemaking in the 21st-
Century City: introducing the funfair metaphor for mobile media in the future urban space.” Digital Creativity, 23, 113–125. doi:10.1080/14626268.2012.709943.

Carvalo, L., Goodyear, P., & de Laat, M. (2017). Place-based sacefor networked learning New Ork & Lodon: Routledge.

Knight, B. (2016). Placemaking: Attracting and Retaining Today’s Students. Community College Journal, 87(2), 8-9.

Luckin, R., Clark, W., Garnett, F., Whitworth, A., Akass, J., Cook, J., Day, P., Eccesfield, N., Hamilton, T., & Robertson, J. (2011). Learner-generated contexts: a framework to support the effective use of technology for learning. In: M.J.W. Lee & C. McLoughlin “Web 2.0-based e-Learning: applying social informatics for tertiary teaching. Hershey: Information Science Reference, 70-84.

Monahan, T. (2002). Flexible space and built pedagogy: emerging IT embodiments. Inventio, 4(1), 1-19.
Online at: http://www.torinmonahan.com/papers/Inventio.html

O’Rourke, V., & Baldwin, C. (2016). Student engagement in placemaking at an Australian university campus. Australian Planner, 1-14.

PPS (Project for Public Spaces) (2016) Placemaking: what if we built our cities around places?

Prakash Kelkar, N., & Spinelli, G. (2016). Building social capital through creative placemaking. Strategic Design Research Journal. 9(2), 54–66. https://doi.org/10.4013/sdrj.2016.92.01

Wyckoff, M.A. (2014). Definition of placemaking: four different types. Planning & Zoning News,

About amiddlet50

Educational developer working in academic innovation in higher education in the UK
This entry was posted in Digital Placemaking. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to On placemaking

  1. rebeccafrazee says:

    Thank you for sharing. This is very interesting and I will read further about placemaking. I manage the FLEXspace.org collection – an open repository of physical campus learning spaces contributed by academic institutions from around the world. We are currently redesigning the interface and user experience, and in doing so, we’re thinking about the “Spaces” themselves (the examples being added to the collection), as well as the FLEXspace “space” itself – this website and tool as a place where you find inspiration, examples, information, and community, through targeted actions as well as through serendipitous encounters with information and others.

  2. Pingback: On placemaking | FLEXspace.org

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s