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Mastoureh Fathi
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Juan A. García-Esparza
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Carlos Smaniotto Costa
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Open Access

Placemaking can be understood as an intentional process of situating, revealing, and creating meaningful environments.

C. G. Freeman (2020)

Placemaking in Practice – Experiences and Approaches from a Pan-European Perspective is a collective effort from multiple scholars in different contexts to bring Freeman’s message into practice. It is the result of a COST Action, an interdisciplinary research network of researchers and innovators who spend several years investigating a topic together. The main aim of this COST Action was to analyse “how placemaking activities re-imagine and reinvent public space and improve citizens’ involvement in urban planning” and to understand the role of “digital tools to record, transform, produce and disseminate a citizens’ knowledge about the urban spaces throughout Europe’s cities” (Dynamics of Placemaking, 2019, p. 2).

This volume addressing the above objective, uses case studies that were conducted in the European context to explore placemaking as a process, as a tool, as a methodology and as an innovative way to think about the past, present and future of cities. In this process, the contributors to this book have focused on different aspects of placemaking in relation to digitization of space, time and practices in cities that have contributed to different understandings of how space and place are experienced.

Placemaking is a multi-layered and multidimensional approach used in different disciplines engaged in urban planning and the involvement of people in the development of their environment. Firstly, placemaking focuses on the processes of understanding public open spaces that are shared among people, such as streets, neighbourhoods, parks, town squares, ports, quays, shopping malls, etc. Planning, designing and maintaining open public spaces are important in understanding practices of placemaking by actors such as young people, women, migrants, etc. (Fathi & Ní Laoire, 2021). These new forms of knowledge can be used to inform future plans.

This volume aims, first, to show the kinds of activities, processes and outcomes of living that use urban spaces in different European contexts. The cases offered in each chapter, amalgamated through variegated perspectives, provide insights for instigating more collaborative results in urban development.

The second element in placemaking that this book addresses is digitization (such as virtual, AR, mixed reality, Bluetooth, wireless beacons, surround sound). Digitization is an important aspect of the methods and tools used in placemaking. As has been argued, digitization can enhance the capacity, competitiveness and communication between users (e.g. tourists, visitors and citizens) (Smaniotto Costa et al., 2019). Most importantly, digitization can offer solutions that enhance and accelerate the experiences and practices of users, citizens, visitors, and agents that use a space. Digitization and development driven by information and communications technology (ICT) are gradual but widespread and they are changing the process of placemaking in the public and digitization can add value to the experience of placemaking in the public (Menezes & Smaniotto Costa, 2017).

1 What Is This Book About?

This volume draws on increasingly used digital tools, current approaches and theories through case studies in different projects and contexts. To highlight this, each chapter has utilized more than one placemaking method and digitization tool and across different European countries. Including more than one case in each chapter enables the reader to gain a broad insight on how these tools are applied comparatively and to understand the “meaning” of a place and the “making” of it. The practices of placemaking discussed here range from micro practices to meso and macro. All chapters address how placemaking is put into practice and how the practice/approach shaped the dynamics of making places.

This book is the first volume of a trilogy on placemaking and is a result of the COST Action “Dynamics of Placemaking and Digitisation in Europe’s Cities” (CA18204). Under the title Dynamics of Placemaking, the trilogy aims to investigate the current practices of placemaking in order to increase shared knowledge across different countries to develop “a new agenda in placemaking” using digital technologies. The authors all belong to the COST Action’s large transnational network (over 90 members) who have collaborated for almost three years. All chapters have gone through a double-blind peer reviewed process carried out by the editorial team and other colleagues. The first volume Placemaking in Practice – Experiences and Approaches from a Pan-European Perspective is aimed at academics, practitioners and stakeholders who are interested in the concepts of space and place, city environments, urban planning and human interactions in social settings. Each chapter features specific lessons that were learned in each case as a way forward to understand placemaking.

2 A Brief layout

The book is divided into two sections: “Cultural Heritage and Placemaking” and “Collaborative Processes for Placemaking”. The first section consists of an introductory chapter to the topic and six thematic chapters on a diverse range of cases. The aim of this section is to show how individuals use public places and make sense of a place individually and/or collectively. This section offers novel insights into placemaking through cultural heritage, memories of the past and related current cultural practices. It is oriented to help to (re)construct a place from a cultural perspective (Altaba & García-Esparza, 2018; García-Esparza & Altaba, 2020).

The second section brings together an introduction and eight chapters that collectively address the role of different stakeholders in placemaking processes and discuss the outcomes of such processes. This section sheds light on a series of innovative and novel methods on placemaking in the public space. These chapters show “what” can be “done” collaboratively in order to make public spaces of cities more inclusive, participatory and engaging.

To conclude, the chapters in both sections expand our current knowledge about placemaking, the ways in which places are used and understood. Whilst this book is based on cases, the comparative aspect of each chapter offers novel insights into the dynamics of placemaking in these contexts. It is hoped that the book is used as a start of a comprehensive argument on placemaking that will be followed up in the next two volumes.

Acknowledgements

In the production of this volume, which accompanies the development of COST Action “Dynamics of Placemaking and Digitisation in Europe’s Cities” (CA18204), several people have helped tremendously. First and foremost, we want to thank the authors for their contributions and their willingness to put their trust in this volume as the platform for sharing their valuable experiences. Second, we are grateful to the section editors (Aleksandra Djukic, Conor Horan, Francesco Rotondo and Juan A. García-Esparza) for their engagement and constant work. We are particularly indebted to Nicole Shea and Aurora Marijke Martin for reviewing some of the chapters. Third, we also thank the COST Programme for the trust placed in this Action. The COST Programme provided the financial frame for the setting up of working group meetings and conferences, the organization of short-term scientific missions and other dissemination activities that helped the authors to find each other and identify common grounds towards understanding the scope of placemaking and digitization. The COST Programme has also financed the publication of this volume.

References

  • Altaba, P., & García-Esparza, J. A. (2018). The heritagization of a Mediterranean vernacular mountain landscape: Concepts, problems and processes. Heritage & Society, 11(3), 189210.

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  • Dynamics of Placemaking. (2019). Memorandum of understanding for the implementation of the COST Action “Dynamics of placemaking and digitization in Europe’s cities” (DOPMADE), CA18204. https://www.placemakingdynamics.eu/.

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  • Fathi, M., & Ní Laoire, C. (2021). Urban home: Young male migrants constructing home in the city. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369183x.2021.1965471.

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  • Freeman, C. G. (2020). Foreword. In D. Hes & C. Hernandez‐Santin (Eds.), Placemaking fundamentals for the built environment (pp. viiviii). Palgrave-Macmillan.

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  • García-Esparza, J. A., & Altaba, P. (2020). A GIS-based methodology for the appraisal of historical, architectural and social values in historic urban cores. Frontiers of Architectural Research, 9(4), 900913.

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  • Menezes, M., & Smaniotto Costa, C. (2017). People, public space, digital technology and social practice: An ethnographic approach. In A. Zammit & T. Kenna (Eds.), Enhancing places through technology (pp. 167180). Edições Universitárias Lusófonas.

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  • Smaniotto Costa, C., Šuklje Erjavec, I., Kenna, T., De Lange, M., Ioannidis, K., Maksymiuk, G., & De Waal, M. (Eds.). (2019). CyberParks – The interface between people, places and technology – New approaches and perspectives. Springer. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-13417-4.

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Placemaking in Practice Volume 1

Experiences and Approaches from a Pan-European Perspective

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