Why Placemaking?

There are a lot of definitions of placemaking floating the Internet right now, but I think this one is my favorite.

From The Art of Placemaking, “You know that line from The Field of Dreams that says, “If you build it, they will come?” It’s the same with public spaces. If you make a space for people to stop their busy life and just spend time enjoying each other and the space, they will take advantage of it.”

Placemaking is a big thing these days in design and city planning but why? Why does it matter and why spend time and money on it? Kristin Cypher from C+B Design spoke to a public crowd on March 25th about just that.

40 West Arts shines at night.

40 West Arts shines at night.

Kristin, who is working with 40 West Arts District on placemaking components, highlighted the importance of creating a place that feels tangible, that is “obvious to people coming into 40 West so they can understand that it’s a place to stop, not just a place to pass through. Currently, it’s not always apparent that the creative district is here.”

The idea of placemaking does just that, creating signs, markers, and way-finding components that promote the idea of place, and show people both where they are right now, and other physical spaces nearby that they might walk, bike, or drive to. Kristin commented that placemaking “does the important thing of actually revealing destinations and assets and allowing people to know that you’ve got them. It also encourages exploration, so that people feel reassured that they can take this path, that they will come to something that feels important to them, a park, a restroom. We want to make that exploration part of the experience of 40 West.”

“This is especially important in places like Lamar Station,” Kristin articulated. “You have a light rail stop, you have a lot of people coming off of that stop, that are maybe going directly to their home or directly to a place that they know. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they understood at that point that they were entering into an arts district, here’s a map that shows you where to go, the routes, the destinations, and it evokes a sense of place that the district has.”

Kristin spoke about signage design specifically (see attached PDF presentation for visuals), telling the crowd that the use of circles was intentional, because circles “imply movement, creativity, wholeness.” She also touched on some of the signage details including written times for both walking and biking, map kiosks where viewers will see a large version of the district map and also an area for announcements, and finally gateways, which are signs stationed over major roadways like Colfax Avenue and serve to showcase that you’re in the district, and also represent the character and style of the district itself.

Kristin summed placemaking up in just a few words. “We’re building on character and identity, finding and revealing. A lot of what we’re doing is actually just unveiling. Unveiling for people who come into the district, where it is, and how to get there.”

For more information on 40 West Arts District placemaking initiatives, the full presentation including graphics is attached here – 40W Placemaking Presentation.

Also please join us for a 40 West Placemaking Tactical Urbanism workshop, to be held on Tuesday April 14th from 3-5pm at Lamar Station Crossing, 6150 W. 13th Avenue. We’ll be brainstorming about quick-win, low-cost projects to implement in 40 West.

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