Creative Placemaking: Designing the Cities of Our Future

Wouldn’t it be incredible if we not only arrived at our destinations, but we also really enjoyed that journey? How do you suppose that might affect our days? Our relationships? Our enjoyment of life in general?

Creative placemaking practitioners use artistic interventions to bring new perspectives (beyond just aesthetics) to communities, sparking vitality and creating an environment conducive to new ideas, creativity, and social engagement. — Jason Schupbach
A sidewalk in the Netherlands that creates a safer journey for cyclists and pedestrians by translating a work of Van Gogh into light.

The top-down approach of 20th century urban planning was misguided by power-player stakeholders, and misinformed behavioral theories, resulting in uninviting, uninteresting, and unloved places. There’s a great movement underway to introduce bottom-up, organic, human-centered design thinking into placemaking. By involving makers and artists in the planning of our cities; you get effective, engaging solutions that are beloved by their communities.

The makers and the artists have always gone hand in hand in the evolution of our environments. The maker is the one who sees a problem and figures out how to fix it. The artist has been engaging you and making life beautiful since man was making art on cave walls. Now the maker has technology and the artists’ canvas is the city.

::::: Researchers ::::: Strategists ::::: Artists ::::: Innovators ::::: Urban Planners ::::: Architects ::::: Landscape Architects ::::: Developers ::::: Experience Designers ::::: Community Leaders

Our city infrastructures are being updated to support new technology and address diminishing resources. As we enter this technological Renaissance we have an opportunity to enhance the experiences people have when engaging with their environments. Together we form a design-minded army, and through efforts such as urban prototyping, we can apply our perspectives to the planning of our future cities and our cities’ futures.

urban prototyping is a global movement exploring how participatory design, art, and technology can improve cities

Recycled materials from an electric railroad track in Lima, Peru makes incredibly cool tire swings and climbing structures in a previously dangerous and unused space in the center of the city.

By taking a creatively focused approach to urban improvements we attack complex problems from fresh, innovative perspectives. In the cities of our future, our surroundings will learn from us, teach us, keep us safe, and delight us. Makers and artists are key members of the transformative teams improving the urban landscape incrementally, and deliberately, toward that vision.

By bringing creativity, by bringing things out into the community, we broaden the spectrum of input that will be used by planning departments, and by agencies to generate the ideas, and eventually the plan of what will be built. — Matthew Passmore
The Fine Young Urbanists used tactical urbanism to illustrate the potential of the street through a low-cost experimental installation

Disruptive experimentation methods, like tactical urbanism, bring awareness to communities, and allow the prototyping of ideas for a minimal investment, giving qualitative data on the effects of experiments quickly.

the journey becomes the destination

When citizens and city officials support art and innovation in urban improvement initiatives you get an assisted evolution model similar to those seen in many of the world’s most advanced cities. To make our cities thrive, we must involve the communities they intend to serve and invite our most creative minds to those discussions.

Built in 1931, this Art Deco railroad underpass in Birmingham, Alabama is a vital gateway between the heart of downtown and a new urban space called Railroad Park. In recent years the dark tunnel had deteriorated into an unwelcoming and potentially dangerous area, so the city hired sculptor and public artist Bill FitzGibbons to create a lighting solution that would encourage more pedestrian traffic.
Invasión Verde, Lima, Peru, 2010, architects: Genaro Alva, Claudia Ampuero, Denise Ampuero, Gloria Rojas

The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority hired design firms Sasaki and HR&A to conceive — “a flexible, vibrant, and temporary urban space — to be an “early arrival” on D Street, setting the tone for civic impact and expressing the ambitions of a new district.”

Find your citizen soldiers:

Your local Center for the Arts
Your local IxDA chapter
Maker faires
Urban Prototyping Festival
Code for America
Ask around

About me

I’m a veteran in the field of experience design who is passionate about integrating art, innovation and enjoyment into the urban landscape. I grew up with parents who were (and still are) landscapers & interior designers thus my compulsion to create compelling experiences was ingrained in me when I was young. Growing up, I was a fine artist. Now I design experiences people have with technology.

I’m a huge advocate of cross-disciplinary problem solving, and as the local leader of the Louisville chapter of IxDA, I’m working to bring that open approach into Urban Planning.

As a Senior Visual Designer at Mad*Pow, I advise clients in high-level product & web strategy, I translate user needs and business requirements into functional product features & most importantly, I translate our clients’ visions into beautiful, functional experiences.

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Through original reporting, sharp analysis, and visual storytelling, CityLab informs and inspires the people who are creating the cities of the future — and those who want to live there.

Among the nation’s top environmental design schools, UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design is one of the world’s most distinguished laboratories for experimentation, research, and intellectual synergy. The first school to combine the disciplines of architecture, planning, and landscape architecture into a single college, CED leads the way toward an integrated approach to analyzing, understanding, and designing what is known as “our built environment.” CED’s curriculum also stresses that environmental design is inseparable from its social, political-economic, and cultural contexts.