Placemaking creates places and focuses on transforming public places to strengthen the connections between the community and the places. It is a people-centred process that focuses on the needs, aspirations, and vision of the people and relies on community engagement. The concept of placemaking is used to improve neighbourhoods, public places, and eventually the cities.

The Project for Public Spaces is an organisation that promotes placemaking in various nations around the globe and recommends various guidelines to improve the cities. They started using the term in the 1990s after 15 years of research and developing the approach.

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The placemaking wheel_©Project For Public Spaces (

The placemaking wheel mainly talks about four design principles for designing people-centric places. It is divided into key attributes and tangible and intangible qualities.

  1. Sociability:

The place should enhance the community spirit among the people and create a suitable environment for socialising. The place should be safe and vibrant and should make a connection between the people and the community.

  1. Uses & Activities

Activities and the use of the place bring people to the place and help in community engagement. The type of activity or the place’s purpose develops the place’s identity.

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The streets act as a place for community engagement during Indian festivals_©Times of India(
  1. Comfort & Image

The more comfortable the place, the more people will visit it. Comfort includes the place’s safety, cleanliness, and hygiene and the availability of sitting spaces. The image of the place matters in this.

  1. Access & Linkages

The connections, routes, and pathways to the surroundings make the accessibility of a place. Visual accessibility and physical accessibility are both considered here. A place with community engagement is easy to get to and has good linkages.

Principles of Community Placemaking

Many scholars, planners, and designers have researched placemaking and urban design. Through the research, they suggest 19 principles or characteristics of quality places. These principles come under the concept of functional areas. A functional area is a unit of resource allocation, urban planning, and management. 

Considering the different types of functional areas, the following principles are recommended. 

Functional Area I: Effective and Functional Physical Configuration

Principle 1: Compact Communities and Clear Urban/Rural Differentiation 

This principle focuses on differentiating rural and urban areas. It focuses on creating compact communities that don’t sprawl.

Principle 2: Strong Urban Center

A strong urban centre where multiple activities take place creates a strong sense of purpose for the place. These urban places should be close to the city centres.

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City centre of city of Unaizah, Saudi Arabia_©Design Erick van Egeraat


Principle 3: City-centred Redevelopment and Infill

A city with high livability has diversity in the design of buildings. A city-centred redevelopment and infill development encourage development in underutilised and unused lands. This is essential for redesigning our cities and accommodating the city’s growth.

Principle 4: Integration of Housing and Employment

Creating mixed-use environments i.e. integrating housing, commercial developments, and workspaces, creates communities that can access facilities and resources to live, shop and work.

Principle 5: Vital, Distinctive and Varied Neighbourhoods

Varied, vital neighbourhoods near the city’s urban centre.

Principle 6: Avoidance of Low-density Residential Development on the Urban Fringe 

An urban fringe is an area where the country meets the town. It is characterised as a fast-changing area.

Principle 7: A Mix of Housing Types and Households with Different Income Levels

The city should have a variety of housing typologies to provide shelter to people from different income groups.

Functional Area II: User-Friendly and Efficient Circulation

Principle 8: Pedestrian and Bike-Friendly Environments

Pedestrian and bike-friendly environments create safe and sustainable communities. The street should be designed to develop safe and effective circulation for pedestrians and bikers.

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Bike friendly streets_©Keystone PHDStudies (

Principle 9: High Quality and Convenient Public Transit and Transportation

A convenient and safe public transportation system creates developed transit corridors and good proximity to the transit centres.

Functional Area III: Preserved Natural and Cutural Resources and Environment

Principle 10: Environmental Resources and Parks: Preserved and Consciously Integrated into the Fabric of the Community

The environmental parks and resources should be consciously integrated into the fabric of the community. The ecological resources, natural amenities, rich qualities, rejuvenation, and recreation create engaging communities.

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Alna Environment Park_©

Principle 11: Preserved Farmland and Related Open Space

Preserved farmlands and open spaces encourage the flora and fauna habitats. These spaces provide a living to the farm owners and the ancillary workers. Integrating these spaces into the community can create sustainable communities.

Principle 12: Historic and Cultural Resources Consciously Preserved and Integrated into Contemporary Settings

Preserving historic and cultural resources in a conscious effort is essential. Integrating historic resources into contemporary designs means respecting and amalgamating our history into our present and future.

Functional Area IV: Enhanced Local Identity and Sense of Place

Principle 13: Strong Local Character, Community Identity and a Sense of Place

Providing a strong local character, community identity, and sense of place is essential.

Principle 14: Well-designed Public Buildings and Public Spaces Enlivened by Works of Art and Sculpture

Well-designed public spaces and public buildings provide a vibrant place for community engagement. When these spaces are enlivened by art and sculptures, they create an identity of the place, as well.

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The Bean, Chicago_©Choose Chicago (

Functional Area V: Attributes to Instinctively Draw Us to Places

Principle 15: Connectivity

This refers to vehicular, pedestrian, and transit connectivity to provide convenience of movement and connectivity.

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Connectivity through different modes of transport_© (

Principle 16: Drama and Dignity: Real Places

Landmarks and unique/creative building facades provide a sense of identity to the place. This strengthens the connection between the community and the place.

Principle 17: Variety and Whimsy

A diverse, out-of-the-box design style or a unique detail creates exciting places and makes people visit the place. 

Casa Batllo_© (

Principle 18: Reflection of Local Values

The context of the place, the local values, appropriate architectural styles, and materials should be taught in the design.

Principle 19: Many Choices and Many Things to Do with Sociable Settings

Apart from this, some things and practices can be followed in social settings. These activities include more than just shopping or housing activities.

The Practice of Community Placemaking

This section provides examples of ways to use and apply the principles in practice.

The following section presents ten specific placemaking activities organised around learning, research/assessment, evaluation/assessment, visioning and planning and a combination of activities.

Community Learning Activities :

  1. Learning and General Awareness of Principles 
  2. Learning and Dialogue around the Principles 
  3. Learning Through Tours and Site Visits 
  4. Creating the Foundations for Community Visioning for Place Through Imagery 

Community Research/Assessment Activities 

  1. Community Assessment in Conjunction with Learning and Light Strategy Series 

Community Evaluation/Assessment Activities 

  1. Community Evaluation/Assessment with Principles as Criteria 

Community Visioning and Planning Activities 

  1. Narrative Visioning: Creating a Narrative Vision for Desired Community Characteristics 
  2. Image and Visual Preferences: Creating Participatory Concept Maps/Visions for Your Community 
  3. Community Design Charrette (Extensive and Abbreviated) 

Combination of Activities 

  1. Combination of Purposeful Activities to Attain Higher-Level Community Impacts

To summarise, the intensive study on the principles and practise of placemaking provide many ways to improve our public places and eventually evolve our cities.


1.Principles and Practice of Community Placemaking [online]. Available at:  [Accessed date: 8 December, 2022]

2.Project For Public Spaces [online]. Available at:  [Accessed date: 7 December, 2022]

3.Alna Environment Park [online]. Available at: [Accessed date: 16 December, 2022]


Rucha Pimplapure is an architect and a research enthusiast from Pune. She believes that through a sensitive and holistic design approach, architecture can have a profound impact on the society and shape the cities we live in. She expresses her creative ideas by writing and sketching.