Chapter 9 Using Dialogical Exchanges and Social Interactions to Evaluate and Improve Placemaking Practices

In: Placemaking in Practice Volume 1
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Conor Horan Technological University Dublin Ireland

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Bahanur Nasya Eutropian & Placemaking Europe Vienna Austria

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Clara Julia Reich Oslo Metropolitan University Oslo Norway

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Roland Krebs Superwien Vienna Austria

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Abstract

The success of various placemaking practices, initiatives or installations are inherently linked to how it facilitates engagement among and between multiple stakeholder groups. Given this, placemaking projects are often challenged by a complex set of social interactions, which present competing interests, perspectives, objectives and goals. As a result, the complexity of these social interactions can become difficult to assess or understand. If we cater for various social interactions in the design stage of a placemaking initiative we might assume that the chances for success are improved. If ignored, we might be assuming that the outcome of a placemaking initiative is less sustainable or impactful. In this chapter, we ask, how can placemaking improve engagement? We focus on the density of communications among multiple stakeholders, where they occur and how they might be encouraged. We focus on three forms of dialogical exchange as a means to understand social interactions and where the density of communications might be acknowledged within a given space. These dialogical exchanges include social interactions between people; people interacting with artefacts or objects i.e. a piano in a train station eliciting a response; and finally, people interacting with ideas and abstractions i.e. a feeling of “inclusion” or “liberty” (Baralou & Tsoukas, 2015; Tsoukas, 2009a, 2009b). We use PlaceCity case histories to illustrate how ubiquitous these different dialogical exchanges are within placemaking practices. We look to identify where the density of communications can be found or facilitated within the design stage of placemaking projects. From this we illustrate the variety of hidden dialogical exchanges which often go overlooked. The first case history focuses on placemaking with high school students in Oslo, Norway. The second case focuses on the concepts and ideas for urban regeneration in Vienna, Austria. Our third case focuses on a cooperatively led urban regeneration project addressing expanded gentrification in Lisbon, Portugal. While we present these case histories merely as examples, our goal here is to illustrate the complex mix of dialogical exchanges that can be observed as densities of communications occurring naturally within our urban spaces. We suggest how this could be used as a starting point to improve placemaking design. In turn, we argue that this ensures outcomes are more sustainable and impactful. By improving engagement, i.e. social interaction and dialogue, we highlight how placemaking can contribute to knowledge production in society.

1 Introduction

For placemaking practitioners, the success of a given project is very often understood, or indeed measured, by the extent to which it attracts various participants and encourages various activities. The more a placemaking project facilitates ongoing engagement and social interactions the more it is understood to contribute to knowledge production in society. By improving engagement practitioners can illustrate the impact of their placemaking design and in turn show the value or impact of their work. This in turn provides better, impactful, more sustainable outcomes for local communities. Research shows that improved engagement improves knowledge production in society (Gibbons et al., 1994; Nowotny et al., 2001; Tsoukas, 2009a). One typical way to assess the impact and levels of engagement within a given urban space or placemaking initiative is the use of footfall measurements. While footfall captures the number of people who pass a given point, and may well be used as a measure of successful impact, it provides little insight into the levels of engagement within a given space over time. As a discrete measurement, footfall tells us little about the quality of engagement, where communications occur, the levels of social interaction or indeed the types of dialogical exchanges within a given space. Similarly, we gain little insight into how a space widens participation, promotes diversity and/or how multiple stakeholder groups are encouraged to interact. Similarly, a measure of footfall tells us little about why or how people use a space and whether such social interactions are merely discrete transactional events or if they become more continuous productive relationships.

To address this, and gain a deeper understanding of engagement, we go beyond the use of discrete metrics and look at engagement as a set of complex social interactions from a relational perspective. We look to see where densities of communications can be found or facilitated. We then consider three dialogical exchanges which may occur within a given placemaking activity. We suggest that this can provide a more sophisticated method of evaluation that contributes to the sustainable production of knowledge in society.

2 The Density of Communications, Social Interactions and Dialogical Exchanges

Successful placemaking can be understood in multiple ways. For example, the economic success of a place, i.e. the agora, is understood as contributing to an area’s vibrancy (Nowotny et al., 2001). In addition, success in placemaking can be understood as preserving the essence of a place, its cultural heritage, its historical references as well as their associated meanings for multiple stakeholders. Similarly, success in placemaking literature has been linked with how a placemaking project widens participation and inclusivity of multiple stakeholders, i.e. participatory placemaking (Al Waer et al., 2017; Cilliers & Timmermans, 2014).

In contrast, the reasons and criteria for failed placemaking might include how a place alienates or excludes multiple stakeholders. As might otherwise be planned, city districts or streets could become undesirable areas to shop or to socialize, or otherwise stop being seen as desirable destinations. Feelings of exclusion from a place might prevent or constrain one’s an ability to engage with it. From this perspective, success considers how knowledge flows are exchanged, or how knowledge is created or preserved. Where engagement as social interaction is constrained, it can in turn prevent dialogical exchanges between and among multiple stakeholder groups. We ask, how can the density of communications, social interactions and dialogical exchanges be planned for within the design stage of a placemaking project? By identifying where such densities can be found or appropriately placed, we can gain some insight into how placemaking can contribute improved knowledge production.

2.1 Identifying and Planning for “Density of Communications”

Discussing the expansion of communicative interactions as the basis for knowledge production in society, Gibbons et al. outline three areas where the density of communications has increased (1994, pp. 34–43). The first is the increased communication between various stakeholders with differing norms and values, such as the interaction between scientists and practitioners. They illustrate that increasing capacity for two different groups to communicate increases knowledge production in society as a whole. Second, advances in technologies such as email and internet communications can be seen as a new density of communication. Finally, Gibbons et al. (1994) point to the increased sophistication around the instruments, methods and expanded approaches which we use to engage with the entities of the social and physical world. In philosophy, humanities scholars/literary critics such as Derrida (1976) highlight how text can “speak”. They note that while historians are always aware of the reinterpretation of history, social scientists have focused on attempting to draw out speech from their subjects. We build upon these “densities of communications” and adapt their use as a placemaking tool that can be considered when designing an urban space.

As a starting point we might ask, “Where do the density of communications occur in a given space?” and/or “Where do we want the density of communications to be?” For example, by using the principles of wayfinding in airports, we might be interested in reducing stopping points so as to increase flow and ensure passengers get to their gates quickly. Alternatively, in retail spaces we might be interested in disrupting this flow within a service blueprint, increase stopping points and encourage shopping (Shostack, 1987). Within urban spaces a balance between the two maybe desirable. The appropriate use of stopping points, dwelling points or rest stops can afford space for conversation, social interaction and dialogue exchange. The simple use of given artefacts, uniquely placed, can be seen to prompt social interactions and dialogue in surprising ways. In office layout design, the placing of a water cooler has anecdotally been discussed as a site for serendipitous knowledge sharing, i.e. the water cooler effect. In tourism management the use of artefacts such as statues, plaques or historical signage can be seen as reference points or tourist stops where the meaning and significance of a historical event is brought to life, prompting dialogical exchanges about the abstract ideas embedded within local history. By drawing out, in conversation, such ideas rooted in an areas’ cultural heritage we can design in ways to draw out hidden dialogues. Harnessing these hidden aspects can help to transform a neglected district or neighbourhood. From this we can increase the density of communications or move them to more desirable locations to ensure better flow. If through a given space the concept of “flow” – used for website design and consumer interactivity (Hoffman & Novak, 1996, 2000) – is hindered in some way, it can increase the density of communications. Whereas these examples are by no means exhaustive, we can see how meeting points or “densities” for social interaction and dialogue with artefacts and abstract ideas are brought to bear on improving engagement within placemaking practices.

2.2 Three Dialogical Exchanges for Placemaking

Within the design stage of a placemaking project dialogical exchanges can be used to operationalize and identify where the density of communications can currently be found and where they might be desirable. Similar to the types identified by Gibbons et al. (1994) above, Tsoukas and others (Baralou & Tsoukas, 2015; Tsoukas, 2009a, 2009b) have identified three dialogical exchanges for knowledge creation that can be relied on here.

The first is real-person to real-person dialogical exchanges. These include face-to-face human exchanges reflecting observable social interaction and include one-to-one or indeed group exchange. By facilitating improved social interaction, and in turn more dialogical exchanges, we argue that this facilitates greater enterprise in a given space. In economics this has been discussed as a means to create a positive externality with knock-on effects for commercial buyer-seller interactions and financial exchange (Bagozzi, 1975, 2009). Allowing for such spaces is argued to form the basis of a knowledge creating space within the agora or public realm (Nonaka & Konno, 1998). By focusing on this dialogical exchange as a unit of analysis, placemaking professionals can build from the ground up a view of where such exchanges might be expected, (un)desired or facilitated. By altering and/or diversifying different types of social interactions or exchanges, placemaking professionals can cater to multiple stakeholder or communities and address potential conflicts, tensions and oppositional views through a strategy of arbitrage (Van de Ven, 2007; Van de Ven & Johnson, 2006). For example, in a public park containing an area for skateboarders, the installation of a partition to separate the skateboarders from the rest of the park could enable the area to be used by both skateboarders and ordinary visitors. This is of interest to placemaking scholars in their attempt to design spaces to facilitate and improve human-to-human social interactions. By creating internal organizational office spaces of interest to interior designers, similar attempts can be made by architects and urban planners in the agora or public realm.

The second is improved interaction between real people and various objects and artefacts. This is of interest to cultural heritage scholars interested in maintaining the historical significance of statutes, plaques, informational artefacts as well as digitized artefacts within museums. The use of various artefacts, models and prototypes have long been employed to encourage and facilitate articulation within the field of architecture. Schön and others using the example of such models highlight how they encourage reflexivity and allows local stakeholders to articulate their opinions. In the absence of such models and prototypes such ideas might well be more difficult to capture. In this sense objects and artefacts have a knowledge-creating quality as they encourage and prompt continuous dialogical exchange to come into being (Schön, 1983, 1987; Schön & Wiggins, 1992; Visser, 2010).

The third is dialogical exchanges between real people and imaginal others. Often regarded as a hidden dialogue, the imaginal other represents dialogical exchanges with abstract ideas, goals and roles. Concepts such as “freedom” or “independence”, which might be represented in historical artefacts, are of interest to cultural heritage scholars. Reflecting these into architectural designs, urban spaces and tourist sites allows for these abstract ideas to be preserved as historical meaning. For tourism management scholars, the development of tourist sites and destinations as artefacts in themselves can also be understood through the abstract historical concepts they promote.

Using this dialogical lens, social interaction as densities of communications can be facilitated. We argue that placemaking practices that constrain dialogical exchanges or prevent social interactions are less effective in facilitating engagement. Conversely, practices that facilitate and encourage social interactions and dialogical exchanges improve engagement. To illustrate this point further: where there is an absence of dialogue we might ask, What happens when social interaction and dialogue exchange are missing from a given placemaking project? Can placemaking be improved at the level of the dialogue exchange and what are the potential benefits of a dialogical perspective for placemaking? The remainder of this chapter considers case histories and examples of placemaking where different dialogical exchanges are evident. The conclusion provides a table or checklist to prompt placemaking practitioners to identify various potential dialogical exchanges and densities of communication that might contribute to the sustainable production of knowledge in the public realm.

3 Cases

The following case histories from Oslo, Vienna and Lisbon highlight the different dialogical exchanges and densities of communication that might be planned into placemaking practices.

3.1 Hersleb High School and a Vision of “The Life to Come”, Oslo

As part of the PlaceCity project, a co-creation process was realized at Hersleb videregående skole (high school) in central Oslo, Norway. The goal here was to revive a neglected area of the city, its school and neighbouring streets. Nabolagshager, a local firm, coordinated the process (Nasya et al., 2021b).

The first step was to engage the local school community, its teachers and school children through various activities on how to improve the schoolyard. A mobile bench was installed to activate an underused section of the yard to create a meeting place and event situations. This provided a focal point for social interaction, i.e. density of communication. By firstly engaging local pupils, the conversation about a “vision” for transforming the neighbourhood naturally extended to their families and the wider community. Here all three types of dialogical exchange could be found: in-person social interaction, the use of artefacts (such as the bench), and what may appear like a hidden dialogue – an idea or “vision” for the neighbourhood.

The second step was to broaden the conversation with the community and passers-by in an initial research and exploration phase. Pop-up events in the street next to the schoolyard were collaboratively hosted with several local stakeholders. Nabolagshager, Hersleb high school and student researchers working for the Oslo Living Lab invited people through social media and posters to these parties. The street was decorated with street furniture, plants and a ping pong table. A local pop-up café provided music and free food and drinks, transforming the street into a vibrant meeting place. This created the possibility for serendipitous communications, encouraged curious people to drop by, and allowed people to talk, explore and discuss how their space might be re-imagined. By creating a “sense of place” and a “feeling of belonging”, different “imaginal” perspectives were allowed to surface. Early engagement with multiple stakeholders captured an improved understanding of community perspectives. It facilitated a greater variety of social interactions and dialogical exchanges between a wider number of stakeholders than might otherwise have been captured. This provided unique opportunities to conduct surveys and interviews and administer participatory tools.

One such tool was a pictogramming and mapping tool. The youth researchers encouraged participants to place icons on a map of the schoolyard and neighbouring streets. This mapping tool helped stakeholders understand the space and visualize activities. It helped residents articulate their needs and emotions about the re-imagined space. Here the densities of communications could be identified considering sensitive local knowledge. The tool itself facilitated commentary which might otherwise have been difficult to get. As a project technique, the mapping tool encouraged the articulation of abstract ideas and values about the area. As an artefact, the pictogramming tool allowed the residents to engage with and articulate complex ideas.

Building on the previous results, the third stage experimented among other things with a temporary light installation. In collaboration with the artist Goro Tronsmo and the actor Paal Herman Ims and students of Hersleb high school, an art-inspiration workshop and a building workshop were organized. The aim was to set up a light installation called “The Life to Come” in order to illuminate and reclaim the schoolyard as a resource in response to the wishes of the locals. During the art-inspiration workshop, the students explored several potential locations in the schoolyard for the artwork and discussed different functions of conceptual art and the meanings of the installation. A curation and building workshop taught the students how to use drills, measure water levels and follow a building plan. Students collaborated on the installation piece. Soon after the installation of the artwork in a dark corner of the schoolyard on a grey Norwegian January day, a new Covid-19 lockdown was announced. The neighbours felt that the light installation brought them hope. Students highlighted the double meaning of “the life to come after graduation” as well as “the life to come after the pandemic”, deepening the piece’s meaning. The local caretaker’s sense of ownership, community and belonging over the piece’s significance was in the pride taken to ensure the lights were working and that the artwork’s full effect was maintained. Residents would take detours to walk their dogs and enjoy the reclaimed space. A teacher in another school contacted the team to ask if a similar piece could be curated in their school. The light installation was featured in local publications and showcased in the local placemaking network in Oslo (Nasya et al., 2021a).

Throughout the project, local stakeholders were invited to reflect on their sense of belonging and ownership over different temporary material changes, such as the light installation. Staff at the Hersleb high school pointed out the increased usage of the schoolyard as a destination in the evenings, weekends and school holidays for children to play ping pong and hang out. The Nabolagshager team were asked to initiate similar co-creative participatory projects with other communities. The abstract ideas of place, ownership, belonging and community proved to be dialogically very powerful, starting a variety of conversations with other social groups who wished to transform their urban spaces. Such practices provided local stakeholders with a voice in how spaces might be sustainably designed to become more inclusive.

3.2 The Development of Floridsdorf, Vienna

A second PlaceCity project looked at the development of the 21st municipal district of Floridsdorf, in Vienna, Austria. Historically Floridsdorf could have become a capital city in the state of Lower Austria, beyond the Danube River. The 17-hectare area included the districts’ administrative building, a food market struggling from a lack of customers and a train station of regional importance. It was a loosely organized central area with various commercial activities on its ground floor crippled with high vacancy rates. The district was also choked with a car-dominated centre. As Floridsdorf was a very well-connected area for commuters and visitors, the partners in the project – the Urban Planning Department of the city of Vienna, the University for Applied Arts and the urban design studio Superwien Urbanism – aimed to improve and strengthen the “centre feeling” of the district, which they felt had been lost over the decades. This abstract idea became an overriding goal for the project to address the sense that interviewees felt disconnected from the centre of Floridsdorf. This would hopefully move social and leisure activities from peripheral areas of the district back into the centre. Implemented between May 2018 and July 2021, the JPI-Urban Europe-funded project sought to build connections between the community and the district’s degraded urban spaces (Nasya et al., 2021b).

The district had 167,968 inhabitants. Demographically this was an ageing, low-income migrant population. Floridsdorf was therefore a perfect candidate for a pilot programme to regenerate city districts under the Smart City Framework Strategy and the “Polycentric Vienna” policy. As a pilot project, Floridsdorf was used as a test bed for placemaking and as a planning tool in urban regeneration. If successful, the regenerative process would be replicated across other Viennese districts.

For a project on this scale the team worked with local stakeholders through an urban living lab to test the approach in the context of the public space in Floridsdorf. Central to the “Polycentric Vienna” policy was a myriad of multidisciplinary, dialogue-oriented actions and interventions designed to incorporate the views of multiple local stakeholders that would be impacted by the regeneration. This encouraged residents, shop owners, entrepreneurs, local artists and activists to play an active role in developing the public spaces and how they would be used. By involving these stakeholders early in the process, what should happen in the centre or focal points of the district could be jointly defined. Other public sector stakeholders, such as the train company ÖBB, the district administration and the urban planning department of Vienna, were also included.

During several workshops and interactive planning sessions an exchange between experts and residents was facilitated. From this co-creative process public places that needed additional attention and regeneration were identified. Agreed goals and joint visions around “enabling spaces” were arrived at and the partners identified the first spaces for activation with the local communities.

One identified space was a small park in front of the district administration building. During the pandemic summer of 2020 a wooden structure of the project was installed. This wasn’t well received by the local residents, who complained that two parking spaces were occupied for two months. It appeared that as the installation was not co-developed with residents it lacked “ownership”. Georg Papai, the district director, commented that as a precondition for successful placemaking initiatives, they need to be rooted in the community to ensure inclusiveness. Despite this temporary setback an open call for project ideas was organized during the spring of 2021. Fifty submissions were received. While many ideas reflected mid- to long-term interventions that could not be implemented within the available budget, 15 “enabled spaces” were identified and implemented in 2021 (Nasya et al., 2021a).

One of the project ideas developed with the local library was a mobile stage and workshop space called “Florum” or “Forum for Floridsdorf”. This received additional funding by the Grätzloase, a funding tool used by the city of Vienna to support urban interventions in public spaces. With the public library as the organizing body, they provided a central place for the public to access, organize and book public events in the enabled space.

To reclaim and regenerate the district’s centre as an “enabling space”, traffic-calming measures were brought in. This returned the streets to the residents, repurposed parking lots alongside themed walks. With the use of art installations, it was envisaged that the space would encourage neighbourhood festivals and upcycling workshops.

An “Urbanize!” festival was organized in October 2020. More than 20 events took place around Schlingermarkt (walks, concerts, workshops, exhibition and games) and hundreds of guests from Floridsdorf and elsewhere participated. This was also the opening of the “Real Labor” in Schleifgasse 11, a space in which students and Place City collaborators work daily and interact with passers-by and guests. “DIY & Right to the City” was a workshop that took place in Real Labor, where participants could create games to explode their public space. A mini-golf game became a tool to encourage interaction and participation.

3.3 The Rejuvenation of Largo Residências in the Intendente District, Lisbon

Largo Residências was a hostel, hotel and café with an artist-in-residence within Lisbon’s fast-developing Intendente neighbourhood in Lisbon. Lisbon as a European capital city was and still is quickly transforming into a tourist destination. This meant that rents were rising, and that accommodation was being gentrified. Spaces for vulnerable people were becoming scarce, increasing concerns over the exclusionary nature of the increased gentrification. At the same time, the Largo Residências building and adjacent square desperately needed to be renovated and rejuvenated. Anti-social behaviour created tensions with and between local residents. The square, where the Largo was located, was a problematic area for drug dealing and prostitution (Saraiva, 2017).

To address these tensions a cooperative was founded by an ambitious group of people from diverse backgrounds (architecture, arts, economy, law, etc.) who wished to combat this increased gentrification and transform the area’s poor reputation. They wanted to show that a socially minded urban regeneration project could improve problematic neighbourhoods, without excluding its former inhabitants. Because the central districts of Lisbon were already becoming tourist destinations, this gave the cooperative enough reason to focus on the pressing social challenges faced by the Intendente district. The cooperative needed “to integrate” themselves into the community from the beginning to get buy-in from the residents. By aiming to foster a “cooperative identity”, they promoted social and cultural events, and encouraged residents to get involved and take ownership of building local networks with businesses, shops and residents – a task made more challenging during the Covid pandemic yet more pressing due to the increased pressures this placed on vulnerable people.

In 2011 the cooperative took over the Largo building so as to connect with the area’s past, present and future. By serving the local community needs in the Largo building’s “hub”, the cooperative was able to develop local initiatives from the bottom up and therefore ensure they included the neighbourhood’s marginalized residents. The building functioned in various ways: as a café, a hostel and a place for artist residencies. When the cooperative took over and started to renovate the industrial building it capitalized on the mix of relevant uses. Prostitution and anti-social behaviour were removed. Concrete financial plans were developed that focused attention on a successful transformation that would ensure a long-term positive social impact. Members of the Largo Residências cooperative were aware that the early inclusion of local residents would be needed to ensure the success of any intervention.

Despite the efforts to integrate the cooperative into the local community and to encourage local residents to get involved, there was some initial distrust of the commercial and profit-making aspects of the hospitality and café business in the Largo building. Some saw the taking over of the Largo building itself as an extension of the tourist initiatives that were inevitably overtaking the city of Lisbon and its neighbourhoods. A serious conversation was needed to convince residents that the initiative was not about maximizing investor profits in the short-term, but actually providing much needed services to the local people in the long-term. A number of points convinced the locals of the cooperative’s sincerity.

Table 9.1
Table 9.1
Table 9.1
Table 9.1

Examples of dialogical exchanges and density of communications

For example, the voting structure of the cooperative gave both investors and workers the same vote. Fifteen people from the neighbourhood were employed – this was especially welcomed after the financial crisis in 2008. The former workers in the building were involved in renovating the new space. Artist residency spaces were also provided. Outreach to help other associations in the neighbourhood was provided. This included specific projects with migrants and refugees (Polyák et al., 2020). The café provided a space for neighbours to meet. The seats and tables outside in the square were provided for all, no matter if they were customers or not. All were welcome even if they could not pay for coffee. The doors remained open for anyone who needed food, a place to rest or a job. Conversations about the area’s cultural heritage and its past reputation were also discussed. The meaning of gentrification and what it might mean for the community helped raise awareness among those who were not familiar with this concept. With interactive and inclusive arts events, the dialogue reached various local communities and made the transformations visible. These actions allowed the cooperative to create focal or densities of communications which helped convince locals of the merits of the cooperative’s activities.

The Largo Residências project lasted ten years under the cooperative and the building’s owner. As the building changed owners the contract was not renewed. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the cooperative ceased offering hospitality and it closed the café in 2021, returning the vacant building to its new owner. The cooperative is looking for a new location to continue its work. Despite these challenges, the project has had long-lasting impacts. The project had a significant impact on the local circumstance and created shared values about community and a sense of responsibility for the local square. The activities taught the residents how important community collaboration is. This made the community stronger and provided them with a louder voice regarding any proposed transformation or gentrification processes if they acted collectively. Because residents were encouraged to be involved and took ownership of activities, it allowed them to reflect on their community and provide them with a clear vision for how they would like it to evolve.

4 Discussion

This chapter aims to improve placemaking activities from a dialogical perspective. The prevailing assumption here is that placemaking is about facilitating engagement and social interaction. The goal here is to explore how placemaking activities can be improved by taking a more systematic approach to the various types of dialogical exchanges. Three dialogical exchanges have been highlighted to illustrate the richness of the perspective. Facilitating dialogical exchanges, engagement and social interaction as “action” is therefore important to arrive at a common understanding or vision for a local area, i.e. such as the Intendente district in Lisbon and the Hersleb high school in Oslo. To ensure that a density of communications is achieved, physical spaces might need to be designed in a given plan. Multiple stakeholders such as individuals, household(s), businesses, social groups and marginalized groups, to name just a few, ensure that a variety of dialogical exchanges are captured and/or catered for in any given design. As illustrated in the Largo case, this helps trust and understanding to emerge. The creation of a park or a space that allows stopping and social interaction is commonly discussed in the literature as a way to create long-term impact. Regarding artefacts, as illustrated in the Vienna and Oslo cases, the use of models and mapping tools allow residents to articulate their needs, visions and emotions in ways which they might not be able to do if such models and tools were absent. The schoolyard bench and lighting installations in Oslo brought about action and engagement in ways that might otherwise have been unforeseen. Street furniture allowed residents to envisage and picture an alternative future. Artwork prompted conversations that might not have occurred otherwise. The third type of dialogical exchange is one that includes imaginal others. These include visions, goals, roles and (present and future) responsibilities that are reflected in abstract ideas about the past, present and future. Across all three cases the idea of “belonging”, “community” and “ownership” could be seen. The sense of identity within a locality and the future development of that identity was found to be important. Fostering this identity within the planning stage provides local communities with a common voice.

By considering the density of communications of each type of dialogical exchange, we can then ask how the type and structure of these communications might inform placemaking in the planning and design stages of a project. Questions about the present/absence of the density of social interactions might differ from the presence/absence of dialogical exchanges involving artefacts and/or their related imaginal others. This provides a foundation for asking how one group of people (i.e. skateboarders) interact with another potentially conflicting group (i.e. pensioners). By exploring the conversations, these diametrically opposed groups might be able to identify potential design aspects that could work as inclusive solutions. Potential conflicts can be addressed using a process of arbitration that brings communities together rather than divides them. Densities of exchanges with artefacts (i.e. historical statues and signage, monuments and/or artwork) conjures up dialogues with aspects of a local cultural heritage, the past, the present and an imagined future. Here imaginal others overlap and are embedded within cultural and historical artefacts. A successful space might be a space that includes and explains to a potential outsider, such as a tourist, the significance of an area, what happened in the past, what’s happening now and what is expected to happen in the future.

5 Conclusion

This chapter argues and illustrates that the success of placemaking is inherently linked to how a place facilitates and encourages dialogue between people as social interaction. We illustrate two additional overlapping forms of dialogical exchanges involving artefact and concepts and ideas as imaginal others. We suggest that spaces devoid of such dialogue exchanges might reflect failed placemaking.

We suggest that placemaking practitioners consider how their design facilitates engagement across different forms of dialogical exchange. By designing in and appreciating where specific dialogical exchanges, as a unit of analysis, might occur – placemaking practitioners might be able to visualize the density of communications within their plans. The benefit of this approach is that engagement, social interaction and dialogical exchanges have long been understood to form the basis of improved knowledge production (Gibbons et al., 1994; Nowotny et al., 2001). By designing an urban district, a schoolyard or helping local residents reinterpret their neighbourhood, it is the interaction that contributes to the vibrancy, creativity and innovation within the agora (Nonaka & Konno 1998). Through the early inclusion of multiple stakeholder groups in placemaking activities it will improve the long-term outcomes for local communities. By increasing engagement, inclusion and belonging, placemaking practitioners can improve the sustainability of their projects.

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the members of Placemaking Europe, and the project leads of the PlaceCity projects Laura Martinez and Anna Bradley for their support in providing material for this chapter. We would also like to thank the project leads for each of the case histories presented here. The Placemaking Europe website and reports can be found at https://placemaking-europe.eu. Specific commentary on the case histories can be found at https://placemaking-europe.eu/listing/placecity-oslo-case-for-a-local-placemaking-network-and-strategy-plan-for-liveability/ and https://placemaking-europe.eu/listing/placecity-work-package-4-establishment-of-local-city-consortium-and-implementation-vienna/.

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Placemaking in Practice Volume 1

Experiences and Approaches from a Pan-European Perspective

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