Placemaking and Climate Resilience

Read time: 3 minutes

Author: Konstantina Vidou (UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network – Youth)

One could argue that the relationship between placemaking and climate adaptation is becoming more apparent and increasingly important, in an era of increased precipitation, flooding, fires and droughts. But what exactly is placemaking? And how can it contribute to increased urban climate resilience?

Placemaking is an overarching idea, as well as a hands-on tool for improving a neighborhood, city or region (PPS, n.d.; CFC, n.d.). With community-based participation at its center, effective placemaking processes prioritize the assets of local communities and their potential, resulting in the creation of quality public spaces that contribute to people’s health, happiness, and well-being. Project for Public Spaces (PPS) asked people what placemaking means to them: “a crucial and deeply-valued process for those who feel intimately connected to the places in their lives.” Placemaking is an approach that allows people to re-imagine and acknowledge the potential of everyday spaces  (PPS, n.d.). 

Connecting placemaking to urban climate resilience lies in the importance of public space design as a climate adaptation measure. As Katherine Peinhardt highlights, “public spaces are where physical and social resilience meet.” Cities have been investing in green and grey strategies for climate change adaptation, but the placemaking approach brings the human factor into the equation of achieving climate resilience (Peinhardt, 2019). This additional layer enhances the kind of social networks that are fundamental in order for cities, regions and areas to be able to recover from climate-related disasters. 

Public space design in the scope of urban design, climate change and that of user-based adaptation. Image source: Nouri & Costa (2017)

Placemakers from all over the world are using networks such as Placemaking X and Placemaking Europe, in order to collectively test out placemaking tools and ideas that can help shape better, resilient and sustainable cities. This gave room for the Tooltest Day Initiative; a concept of collective development in the European Placemaking network. Tooltest Day relies on the idea that placemaking tools should be accessible for all the stakeholders involved in the process. The goal of this initiative is to create a platform for testing different tools, while applying and using them in individual projects, in different locations. Placemake Earth Challenge will be organized as another tool-testing moment sometime in April 2020, honouring the 50th anniversary of Earth Week celebration in collaboration with placemaking all around the globe. 

Earth Day was a unified response to an environmental crisis. On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans went out on the streets of hundreds of cities, protesting against environmental ignorance, and demanding a new approach for the protection of our planet. The celebration of the first Earth Day was the catalyst of the modern environmental movement.  The importance of this day is highlighted by the fact that in 2016, the United Nations chose Earth Day as the day to sign the Paris Agreement on climate change (Earth Day, n.d.).

A continuation of the “Tooltest Day” initiative is aligned with Placemake Earth Challenge, which will include a number of knowledge-packed webinars. The webinar I attended on March 27th addressed the theme of ‘Placemaking for Climate Resilience’. Participants had the unique opportunity to listen to an amazing line of keynote speakers, such as: Tina Nandi Stephens & Anca Florescu Abraham, Founders of LYPMumbai; Fred Kent, Founder of Project for Public Spaces and coordinator of the first Earth Day celebration in the streets of New York; Katherine A. Peinhardt, German Chancellor Fellow supported by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and hosted by the German Development Institute, and Adam Curtis, project manager at Nabolagshager, based in Oslo.

Placemake Earth Challenge Webinar. Image source: Ryan Smolar

The topic of this webinar was the connection between climate change and public spaces, and how we, as placemakers, can contribute to tackling this issue, while creating better cities for people to work, play and live in. 

How do you see the relationship between these two topics manifesting in your own context?

Biography

Konstantina Vidou is an un urban planner from Greece, with experience in research and placemaking, gained through her year abroad in The Netherlands, while working at the Center of Expertise and Social Innovation, and STIPO; an area development company that focuses on placemaking and participatory processes for creating better cities. You can contact her at konstantinavidou@gmail.com. 

 

About vidoukonst

Konstantina Vidou is an un urban planner from Greece, with experience in research and placemaking, gained through her year abroad in The Netherlands, while working at the Center of Expertise and Social Innovation, and STIPO; an area development company that focuses on placemaking and participatory processes for creating better cities. You can contact her at konstantinavidou@gmail.com.
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