Place Branding and Placemaking

What makes a special place?
Why do you fell welcome and safe in certain places and why do you feel unhappy in other places? This article intends to investigate and reflect on these issues as part of the construction of places and place brands.

Most of the time we can’t rationally explain the reason for this predilection. Coul’d be the mood of the place, the number of facilities it offers or simply by appearance. The fact is that all of this together is important for people have emotional ties to places.

We can say that a place is only alive to the extent that people take ownership and use, but for this to happen it is essential that the public space make an invitation to this occupation and coexistence.

Over the years urban planners were forgetting the human dimension, the cars were taking more and more space and people getting increasingly squeezed into small sidewalks. The truth is that over the decades the public spaces, which reflect the quality of the city, and its users have been increasingly mistreated.

This relationship between cars and people is easy to understand. Think of a nice place of the city, any city, and you probably do not think of any car around. Now, think about the best urban experiences you’ve had, that revitalized center of a Scandinavian city, the narrow streets of European medieval towns, the French streets and their cafes, or even in that town where you will meet friends at the square bandstand. In all these places the cars are … away! But do not you just take the cars out of the equation, it takes more than that, it is necessary to think about “life” in public spaces.

This “philosophy” called “placemaking” proposes the discussion of the city model we want, the development model we want, in short, how we want to live in our cities and is easy to summarize the activity as: a philosophy of transforming public spaces through the community engajement.

But first things first: what the hell is placemaking?

For the nonprofit PPS (Projects for public spaces) placemaking is: “While a comprehensive idea and a practical tool to improve a neighborhood, city or region, a transformative approach that inspires people to create and improve their local public. Placemaking strengthens the connection between people and the places they share. More than just creating a better urban design of public spaces, placemaking facilitates creative patterns of activities and connections (cultural, economic, social, ecological) that define a place and support their continued evolution.”

The beginning of everything … or the end.
Probably the first voice to speak out against the inhuman scale adopted in large cities was the journalist and American writer Jane Jacobs in 1961 (yes 1961 !!) in the classic “Death and life of the great american cities” which criticized the increasing importance and therefore the space given to cars and modernist city planning matrix segregated functions and created lifeless spaces.

But it is not just about urban quality that the issue is, it inserts places on the map with their true dimensions of interest, in other words, it exalts and works that the city or neighborhood has to offer to the population, as well as their visitors, its main “products and services”. If we think of cities as brands, understanding of the theme can take another dimension.

But what does all of this have to do with branding?
We always create associations to give importance to a place: the city of sweet compote, the gastronomic center of such place, or a cultural life elsewhere, the street of theaters, the square of cafes and so on … Let’s make a little test, when we think about these three places wath comes automatically into yor head? Las Vegas, Silicon Valley and Orlando. Almost every one related this places to: games or entertainment, innovation and fun.
The place branding, to use a broader term, passes through the same discussions that traditional branding: identity, attributes, values ​​… what unites a group of people around a place.

Much more common is the relationship between branding and tourism places. This is an obvious advantage to a place, tourist features are distinctive by definition. But what about a place don’t have any tourist vocation? what to do? just ignore them?
Far beyond communicating a “landmark”, the Place Branding can also serve as an important social and political engagement tool. One way to create a “common idea” that can involve the whole community in the process of qualification and transformation of a place, whatever it is. Incidentally, in this regard placemaking and place branding look like, both start from the idea that the community is the expert, one builds and the other strengthens and both transform.

A brand place only succeeds engage its residents and create a unique experience for its visitors. Thus it will stand out from the others and attract more visitors, investment, talent, etc …

After all this stop, go have a coffee at your favorite corner shop, look at the movement, feel the “vibe” of the place and ask yourself: what city model is the best for you?


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