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Citizens stepping up to reshape public spaces. Where do urban planners fit?

Placemaking making headlines

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Placemaking, urban interventions or grassroots urban actions: All slightly different terms for a growing trend in citizens recreating public spaces.

Placemaking is a multi-layered process. Citizens co-create active, engaged relationships to the spaces they inhabit — shaping them to foster a sense of communal stewardship and lived connection, reads City Repair website.

During his recent talk in Vancouver, placemaking pioneer Mark Lakeman spoke of citizens transforming intersections into piazza-like gathering spaces for communities. Portland locals painted roads and added plants and greenery to community spaces.

Placemaking often includes elements of art, creativity and design elements that prioritize human engagement.

A global movement of “urban interventions” is also on the rise. 100 in 1 Day (100 en 1 Día) began in Bogotá, Columbia in 2012 as local and international students collaborated on an idea to create 100 actions that maximize the potential of a city. They gleaned high success as more and more people joined the group, leading to 250 interventions collectively enacted in the city on the same day. It bloomed a festival of actions like street art, bike lanes and urban gardens.

The citizen-led movement has since spread to other cities in Columbia, South America and worldwide. In Canada, Montreal was the first city to take on the initiative last fall. Now 100 in 1 Day is set to take place in four Canadian cities on June 7 — Vancouver, Toronto, Halifax and Montreal.

As citizen-led urban renewal grows in public discourse and action, what role should urban planners and engineers play in this movement? What is the role of local government?

What does placemaking mean to you? How would you define it?

Where have you seen placemaking in action?
How can placemaking support vibrancy in our communities.

This story is part one of a series focused on placemaking and other citizen led initiatives. Read other entries in this series here:
2) Team sparks renewal of Kelowna’s unlikely places
3) Designing and making choices as a community – that’s placemaking.
4) Animating public spaces can inspire, rather than drive, sustainability
5) New convening role for municipalities
6) Placemaking in practice: local history enriches an Edmonton Park
7) City of Victoria lays groundwork for deeper citizen engagement
8) Growing shift among communities focuses on stronger resident engagement and reducing the “role” of local government

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