Place Agency @ LG-PRO Conference
Place Agency added to the voice of placemaking recently by presenting a workshop at the Local Government Professionals Conference. Representing the program was Dominique Hes and Cris Hernandez Santos who introduced Place Agency’s four dimensions of place – physical space, self, the communities and nature.
The program’s framework of place brings in ‘nature’ as a critical component of place which is missing from other frameworks, to highlight the positive benefits accrued by developing strong relationships between the self and nature, as well as between nature and the built space. This draws from multi- and inter-disciplinary research showing the benefits of nature for both physical and mental health due to the innate biophilic relationship we share with nature; as well as how a connection to nature is linked to people’s connections with place.
Included in the discussion were also reasons why embedding social research methodologies is critical for evaluating placemaking endeavours.At first participants were asked to divide into groups and design a park as “a place where young people/women can have fun, feel safe, and make new friends”. It was found that the parks designed often included: 1) art sculptures, 2) areas for music festivals or celebrations, 3) children’s playground, and 4) water bodies or fountains.
Each group also designed their own evaluation framework, which they later used to evaluate designs of other groups. Through facing the challenges of evaluating another group’s work, participants realised the importance of a standardised place-based evaluation tool. This allowed Place Agency to share their review of existing tools for identifying the relationship between the four dimensions of place, as part of a longer-term endeavour looking into the most appropriate strategies for place evaluation. This work is currently in its early stages and the intention is to eventually develop an industry certification tool to evaluate the results of place development endeavours through the lens of ‘place’.