Placemaking Design

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Large Tustin Legacy logo and 30 foot arch logo mark as gateway entry over pedestrian trail with two people on a bike ride

What is Placemaking Design?

Placemaking design is a collaborative process of designing public spaces that are functional and reflective of the community's culture and identity. Placemaking creates friendly communities by building environments that encourage interaction and engagement.

The goal of placemaking is to create public spaces that enhance the community beyond its direct needs. Public art, wayfinding signage, landscape design, lighting, and furniture are just a few examples of the many design components that are used to create a unique environment. Involving the local community is important. This helps connect their values with visuals. These visuals can tell a story using graphics, patterns, typography, and color. An infusion of creativity makes for places people continue to visit and share with others.

Placemaking Projects

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What is the History of Placemaking?

Early Shaping of Public Spaces

Placemaking and urban design date back to ancient times when it was used to create a sense of belonging and community. The creation of public spaces that reflect the beliefs, values, and traditions of various cultures has the power to bring together people of different backgrounds.

A writer by the name of William Whyte first used the term "placemaking" in the 1960s. Whyte believed that creating good public spaces involves understanding how people use them and what makes them comfortable or interested. It includes planning, designing, managing, and programming these spaces effectively.

Jane Jacobs, an urbanist and activist, believed that local communities should have the power to shape their own environments. She believed that this should happen gradually and naturally. Jacobs' most famous book, "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" (1961), critiqued the large-scale redevelopment projects. She believed that cities should be planned to support diverse communities and human-scale neighborhoods.

What are the Types of Placemaking?

Crafting a Community

Spatial design comes in various forms, tailored to meet the specific requirements of the community, stakeholders, and developers. The placemaking examples below are all waterfront projects in California, within 40 miles of each other. Even with such proximity, and similar surrounding, these projects take a varying approaches to placemaking design. Below we explore the 4 types of placemaking design that can be used alone or in combination with each other.

Standard Placemaking

Standard placemaking aims to make public spaces more welcoming and convenient for people to meet, enjoy themselves, and unwind. Pacific City in Huntington Beach, CA is located across from the beach. It offers a variety of restaurants, shops, and beautiful views. Visitors can enjoy a peaceful sunset at this scenic location.

Lot 579 at Pacific City

Strategic Placemaking

This approach aims to connect placemaking initiatives with larger goals and community needs. These goals include bettering public health, boosting economic growth, and tackling social issues. The City of Dana Point conducted a rebrand and economic enhancement effort to become the destination, rather than a pass-through city. Dana Point is thriving with new developments, city-run events, and premium amenities for all residents and guests.

City of Dana Point

Creative Placemaking

Creative placemaking involves incorporating art, events, and community traditions into the design of public spaces. This method fosters a sense of belonging and celebrates the diversity that defines a community through creative interventions. Lido Marina in Newport Beach was designed with a mix of modern and traditional styles, creating a unique and luxurious atmosphere.

Lido Marina Village

Tactical Placemaking

Making quick, low-cost, and temporary changes to public areas in order to test new concepts or refresh a place quickly. At Balboa Fun Zone they needed a revamp while architecture and long-term plans were in progress. Painted environmental graphics and simple upgrades to furniture, lighting, and landscaping brought new life to the aging project.

Balboa Fun Zone

The Placemaking Power of Ten

1. A Sense of Arrival

Create an impactful first impression with enhanced entryways that set the tone for meaningful community interactions.

Successful Placemaking Examples

Liberty Station

San Diego, CA

Liberty Station is a mixed-use development located in the Point Loma neighborhood of San Diego, California. The development is situated on the site of the former Naval Training Center San Diego and is now home to a variety of businesses, arts and cultural organizations, educational institutions, and residential units.

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5th + Broadway

Nashville, TN

The 6.2 acre development is adjacent to popular attractions such as Ryman Auditorium, Country Music Hall of Fame, and Bridgestone Arena. It's a popular place for locals and tourists with shops, restaurants, entertainment, and homes. We created a series of typographic placemaking murals that made the path of travel an experience for visitors.

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Great Park Neighborhoods

Irvine, CA

Great Park Neighborhoods is a planned community near Orange County Great Park, one of the biggest parks in the US. Residents can use the swimming pool, playgrounds, sports courts, picnic areas, and other amenities scattered throughout the community.

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What are the Benefits of Placemaking?

From Vision to Vitality

Creating safer and more inviting public spaces

Placemaking fosters a sense of security and encourages active participation, transforming public areas into welcoming environments. People prefer places with good lighting, clear paths, and easy-to-see areas for spending time comfortably.

Gene Leahy Mall

Promoting social interaction and community cohesion

Making inclusive public spaces for people to gather, connect, and engage in shared activities. Placemaking creates a sense of belonging and strengthens social ties in the community through events and community involvement.

Ovation Hollywood

Encouraging physical activity and healthy lifestyles

Involves thoughtful design and planning to create environments that inspire movement and well-being. Accessible parks, recreational facilities, bike lanes, and pedestrian-friendly pathways promote fitness while contributing to the overall health and vitality.

Wai Kai

Boosting local economic development and tourism

Well-designed places attract people and create opportunities for a thriving commercial environment. Events and cultural attractions in public areas help local businesses and boost economic growth for the whole community.

Hotel Drover

Placemaking is Transformative

Placemaking design is an essential process for creating public spaces that are functional, engaging, and reflective of the community. Placemaking can change a normal experience in cities, suburbs, or rural areas into something extraordinary. Placemaking goes beyond the physical redesign of spaces; it's a holistic approach that considers the social, cultural, economic, and environmental dimensions of a community. Ultimately shaping the way people experience and engage with their surroundings.

Articles on Placemaking

Placemaking design article series poster design with location icon graphics

The Placemaking Power of Ten

Connecting People to Place at LBX

Cultural Districts for People

Placemaking Markets

Placemaking design is proven effective in places large and small, public and private, new and old. Each  requires a unique approach with the common goal of creating places people enjoy by connecting to innate human needs. Placemaking design creates vibrant and engaging environments that foster community, enhance experiences, and promote well-being for all.

Retail Placemaking Design

Retail placemaking involves designing engaging environments to enhance customer experiences, encourage longer dwell times, and foster a sense of community and brand loyalty.

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Public Market Placemaking

Creating dynamic and inclusive gathering spaces within market environments that celebrate local culture and promote economic vitality through immersive dining experiences.

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Waterfront Design

Waterfront placemaking involves designing inviting and accessible public spaces along waterfronts to enhance visitor experiences, promote recreational activities, celebrate natural beauty.

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Sports & Entertainment Design

Sports and entertainment placemaking focuses on creating engaging environments within stadiums, arenas, and entertainment districts to enhance the fan experience and cultivate a sense of excitement and community around sporting and cultural events.

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Hospitality Design

Hospitality placemaking involves designing welcoming environments within hotels and resorts to enhance guest experiences, promote relaxation, foster social interaction, and create memorable stays that reflect the brand's identity and values.

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Mixed-Use Placemaking

Mixed-use placemaking entails designing versatile environments to create dynamic urban hubs that blend residential, commercial, retail, and recreational spaces with the goal of enhancing the quality of life for residents and visitors alike.

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Residential Community Design

Residential community placemaking involves creating cohesive and livable environments within neighborhoods to promote social interaction, enhance safety, encourage physical activity, and cultivate a sense of belonging among residents.

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Park Placemaking Design

Park placemaking involves designing public spaces to promote recreation, relaxation, and social interaction. We aim to enhance the natural beauty of the surroundings, foster engagement, and create memorable experiences for visitors of all ages.

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Community Center Placemaking

Community center placemaking involves creating inclusive spaces that cultivate a sense of belonging and strengthen community bonds through engaging programming and thoughtful design.

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RSM Design focuses on creating comprehensive and enduring placemaking solutions that not only enrich user experiences but also contribute positively to the broader well-being of the community.