the blog posts

it's the loveability

Despite an intention to shift my focus away from placemaking, I seem to come back to it with remarkable regularity. Not least because I have seen its successes, and wish the same for Bermuda. 

ethan kent, image -

ethan kent, image -

The doyenne of placemaking is the Project for Public Spaces (PPS) in New York, which likely coined the term. You can check out the website,, to learn more about the organisation, but you will get a better feel for it and its work by reading What Makes a City Great? It's not the Liveability but the Loveability by Irene Pedruelo for Policy Innovations. In this thought-provoking piece she interviews Ethan Kent, Senior Vice President at PPS, who has extensive experience around the world in the art and business of placemaking. Ethan has been involved in placemaking efforts ranging from Times Square in New York, to Sub Centro Las Condes in Santiago and Pompey Square in Nassau and much more.

In the interview Ethan brings out, among many other things, the importance of community-based change. As he puts it, "People with most attachment to a place are the ones that love the place the most. Where there is no community-based governance, there is no attachment. We need to pay attention to place and community, and the social networks around it."  

It is about the loveability.

a revitalized riverfront park

Cali, Columbia is working towards revitalizing its riverfront, creating the new Rio Cali Park. A collaboration between the design team of West 8 and the Municipality of Cali, the aim is to link the people of Cali with the river in a safe environment, which prioritises pedestrians and cyclists.

rendering by west 8

rendering by west 8

Cali is the third largest city in Columbia and it has been torn by violence and suffered stagnation for decades. The River Cali Revitalisation Project faces challenging odds as it seeks to kick start urban renewal and regeneration. The idea is to prioritise public space and connect people to the river in a safe way. To this end, a roadway is being re-purposed to provide bike lanes and safe pedestrian routes that join the city centre with the new river park. As outlined by designboom, Cali will have a peaceful public realm, with plazas for events, where residents and meet and relax. The emphasis is placed on fostering a safe urban area where a density of people can begin to engage with each other constructively.

This is striking to me - not least because funding for Phase 1 is actually approved!  Cali faces struggles of a kind that Hamilton's waterfront in Bermuda does not and will not face, and yet progress is made. This is a properly considered plan and we could learn a thing or two.

placemaking and diversity

Thriving public spaces enjoyed and used by all in the community is what placemaking should be about. And while this blog devotes a fair number of column inches to the topic of placemaking, on reflection, the importance of ensuring 'diversity awareness' as part of the process is not emphasised at all.

Some will say "Why should it be? If placemaking is done 'properly' the public space(s) will automatically be attractive the local and broader community anyway." To certain extent that may be true. However, I can't help but remember the axiom "She who fails to plan, plans to fail," so, in reality, these things can't be left to chance.

This line of thinking was brought on by the article Is America's Civic Architecture Inherently Racist? by Dean Saitta, writing for Planetizen. Saitta, in turn, was responding to an article by Mark Rinaldi, writing for Denver Post, Did Diversity Miss the U Train in Union Station Architecture? which created something of a firestorm among Denver citizens. 

union station - cyrus mccrimmon, the denver post

union station - cyrus mccrimmon, the denver post

I would agree that bringing this debate into play around the renovation of a historic building - on which design restrictions are likely to be placed - is not completely helpful, perhaps. However, Rinaldi points to the need to envision a daily life beyond physical architecture  - get to the 'how' and 'why' diverse people use public urban spaces.

It made me think. There are clubs and activities that broadly appeal to white people in Bermuda, clubs and activities that broadly appeal to black people and, yes, those that appeal to both. When the day finally arrives and Hamilton's Waterfront becomes an urban space extrodinaire, I hope it is because the designers and programmers are sensitive to and actively seek to create a public space that draws in a great mix of economically viable uses, has 24/7 activities through all seasons, allows for accessible and flexible spaces, supports creative amenities, is reflective of our (marine) history and culture and, yes, includes diversity awareness as one of its guiding tenets so that all feel welcome and safe.