Why a ‘placemaking’ approach elevates outdoor space design
Date published 20 June 2023
We all have our favourite places, but what makes a place somewhere we want to visit and spend time in, and return to again and again? We explore how a focus on placemaking in contemporary outdoor space design is transforming spaces from bland to brilliant, vacant to vibrant ‘places for people’.
As specialists in street and park furniture for outdoor spaces, Urban Effects knows the essence of effective outdoor space design is understanding a place and unlocking its purpose and potential, based on the needs and expectations of the people who will use it.
Urban Effects CEO Simon Filleul says the company’s new Places for People Design Guide sets out the foundations for its successful collaborations with Councils, developers and landscape architects based on a process that embraces best practice placemaking.
“Placemaking is important to our clients and their communities, and it’s important to us,” Simon say.
“It amplifies the outcomes of every project we work on, whether it’s an outdoor space in a new retail or cultural precinct, park or residential development, or the revitalisation of a tired streetscape or under-used open space.”
What is placemaking?
In simple terms, “placemaking is the process of creating quality places that people want to live, work, play, and learn in” (Congress of the New Urbanism).
It is a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces that capitalises on a local community’s assets, aspirations and potential, with the intention of creating public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness and wellbeing.
Placemaking and street furniture
Simon says Urban Effects’ approach to street furniture and outdoor space design is inspired by place and people in equal measure.
“We start every project by gaining an understanding of ‘a place’ (its location, landscape, history, use) and the ‘people’ (demographics, culture, lifestyle) who will use an outdoor space,” he says.
“This guides the selection of street furniture and amenities with a focus on ensuring every element serves a purpose or function and is positioned for convenience and maximum use: from table settings to seating, bike racks to BBQs.”
This is in recognition that outdoor spaces are used in multiple ways by multitudes of people. We might pass through a place as part of our daily commute. A location’s proximity might make it the perfect place to exercise, eat, relax or catch up with our neighbours or colleagues. Or it could be a destination for community events or celebrations with family and friends.
In response, the furniture and amenities we now see in parks and public places are far more diverse and versatile.
“It’s never a ‘one size fits all’ approach,” Simon says.
Urban Effects manufactures and sources street furniture with the option to choose materials or add finishing touches that make a place unique and reflect a location and its people, culture, history or environment or an architectural design aesthetic.
Placemaking in action
A collaboration with Invercargill City Council, Isthmus Architects and Downer, the Invercargill City Streets Upgrade project is a case study in placemaking.
Invercargill’s inner-city streets have been transformed into ‘places for people’ in line with the Council’s vision to create an inviting and vibrant CBD where people want to stay longer, shop and socialise. Beautiful, locally and sustainably made timber seating with organic shapes, bright pops of colour and bike racks were just some of the solutions Urban Effects provided to bring the city’s streets to life.