The idea of placemaking was coined by Jane Jacobs and William H in the 1960s. As urban spaces are a combination of many open and built environments, the quality of the built and natural environment has a role to create positive and therapeutic consequences over human psychology. Placemaking is an intentional effort to promote a connection between the spaces by adding meanings to them and creating a sense of place. Therefore, fostering connections between the Four Dimensions of Place Framework (FDP), Placemaking establishes a holistic and sustainable network between the individuals, the community, the natural environment, and the human-made environment.

We perceive places by receiving information from the built and natural environment by our sensory system and establishing a relationship with the places. Public places are not only linked with many personal experiences and trigger emotional connections between the individuals and the places, but also introduce a place attachment to the dense, diverse, mobile, and socio-economically vulnerable communities and contribute to the sustainability of the cities. This way, the Placemaking process derives the intangible benefits of the places leading to many positive psychological impacts on the users. 

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Placemaking outcomes achieved through developing a relationship between the Four Dimensions of Place Framework (FDP)

As per WHO health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well- being, and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity.”

The role of psychological well being (PSB) is quite high to experience positive emotions and happiness. As Placemaking creates a sense of place within the physical environment, the psychological benefits of the placemaking process are discussed below through the lenses of the Six-factor Model of Psychological Well-being, a theory developed by psychologist Carol Ryff.

Self-Acceptance:

The placemaking process enables the participants to reflect on their perception of places and the usage of the public places. In this way, people develop a sense of appreciation for the potentials of the places and also become aware of their contribution to the placemaking. Moreover, the participants become more willing for the operation and maintenance after the co-creation of the places and they also feel positive about redeveloping those places again to accommodate the changing needs of the communities over time.

Environmental Mastery:

Through the placemaking process, a diverse group of stakeholders works together to explore the places to recognize urban issues and solve them by working together. So, they learn to analyze the physical as well as socio-economic situations and derive solutions from the surrounding opportunities. This process enables them to design contextual responses and they develop a sense of competence and achievement and confidence to have control over the external surroundings.

Positive Relations with Others:

Through a responsive problem-solving process, the users learn to make choices collectively that can solve the urban issues and create an identity of that neighborhood. To make the right choices, while the stakeholders communicate through various discussions, workshops, charades, or Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper (LQC) actions, a sense of belonging grows in them making them more connected with that place as well as with the community members, balancing the socio-economic inequality and segregation in a city. Therefore, through the placemaking process, the participants develop a warm and trusting relationship with others that add to their subjective well-being and life satisfaction.

Personal Growth: 

While co-creating the places, the participants from different backgrounds work together to achieve a shared goal and they develop various tangible and intangible skills in this process. The participants expand their boundaries of knowledge and become more mindful about the places they live, work, and play. As people from different age groups participate in the placemaking, the young people develop leadership quality and confidence in many hard and soft skills and learn many career and entrepreneurial insights while grown-up working people from different professional backgrounds develop a sense of agency and become active citizens. The elder people also feel more socially connected by getting actively engaged in providing an informed opinion about the places and as an end product, they get more open spaces for outdoor activities. Therefore, through the placemaking process, the participants feel a personal development and realize their potential that makes them more psychologically strong.

Purpose in Life:

As most of the placemaking process starts with tactical urbanism and through Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper (LQC) actions, the participants can experience the progress. The cooperative platform already developed by this process creates a momentum that encourages people to work for long term changes in the neighborhoods. They develop a stronger sense of responsibility, ownership for the places, and invest more time and resources in the long-term developments. Therefore, the strong goal orientation created by the placemaking process provides a more focused purpose in life.

Autonomy:

While working with diverse communities and backgrounds of people, the participants overcome the social challenges and learn to act independently within a group to create a balance between multiple functions served in public spaces. Through this process, the participants develop self-determination by balancing their expectations and other’s evaluation.

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IMAGE 4-“Motivate our Minds” (MOM) Garden program for K-12 students in Muncie, Indiana Source: ©pps.org

The link between place and activities, and the expectation of finding certain people in certain places, all indicate how a particular physical location can have its psychological power from a ‘location’ to a ‘place’ (Canter, 1977:123)

Therefore, through Placemaking, the participants develop individual well-being as they thrive in the places that fulfill their needs and that they have co-created. In post-COVID-19 cities, it is more important to develop new tools to engage instead of avoiding the public participation for maintaining social distancing as the participants will achieve their much-needed psychological wellbeing at this crucial time while contributing to the making of the sustainable and resilient urban environments. 

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Author

Sudeshna is a practicing architect and urban designer who believes in collaborative approach for designing successful spaces. She is passionate about finding innovative and sustainable solutions to urban issues. Her avidity to design and enormous interest in research work has motivated her in voicing architecture and design through writing as well.

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