Finally we are awakening to the idea that public spaces are for people and are really important places for community well being and identity and not just a remnant of poor architectural space planning.
It hardly seems probable that this circumstance even came about. Perhaps it was the desire for the simple, clean and compartmentalized design of the modernist movement that our city planners forgot that the public realm is actually for and about – PEOPLE.
However a campaign is gathering pace, shifting the focus of the public realm back to people and place ensuring a vibrancy and liveliness. This democratic and anthropological approach, grounded in the aspirations of the community, has been branded as place making. Place making is emerging as an important part of the early planning of space and the question of what attracts people to place is no longer being left to chance.
Fred Kent and Kathy Madden from Brooklyn based ‘Project for Public Space’ (PPS) are pioneers in place making. Since 1975 they have been working with communities across the globe to help transform public space into vital places. The groundswell for a meaningful approach to public space has enabled them to work with hundreds of communities bringing a unique place based approach to planning and design. Through their work they have developed several tools that guide the process and help communities evaluate their own spaces. Two key tools are the ‘Place Game’ and the ‘Power of 10’.
In Perth we have our fair share of empty space surrounded by brutalist architectural form driven by building function, economic and minimalist factors without any appreciation of public activity. Whole generations of architects were trained to believe that buildings alone would solve our city problems. Years later we wonder why these spaces are unused, and only the bravest will venture through them especially after dark. The Perth Cultural Centre is perhaps the most obvious of city spaces to fall into that category.
Over the last six months PLACE Laboratory has had the opportunity to work with Kathy and Fred in the development of the Perth Cultural Centre Place Plan – a long-term vision to return this part of the city into a vibrant people focused destination. PPS’s role on the Cultural Centre started several years ago when the East Perth Redevelopment Authority invited leading Perth design consultants, stakeholders and the public to play the place game. The evaluation tools used by PPS highlighted the deficiencies of the Cultural Centre but also identified key opportunities for its revitalization.
The PPS mantra of ‘Quicker, Cheaper, and Lighter’ has seen a range of immediate improvements – seating, shade, lighting, retail pods, an urban orchard and native wetland. The new vibe of the space has seen a dramatic shift in the public’s perception of the Cultural Centre.
Fred talks about these being initial steps in a catalytic process that will see the Perth Cultural Centre become a vital part of our city and cultural identity. He likens the process to a campaign driven by community, stakeholders and the government to express the importance of our culture and to create a place like no other.
Let the campaign begin.
If you would like to know more about PPS visit their website. ;