Local Legends is a research project that sets out to define the value of narrative in placemaking.
Places are complex. Our cities, spaces and landscapes are evolving at dramatic speeds and facing greater global competition. But they’re also the stage for our lives, our cultures and our intimate understanding of the world.
Those involved in developing and governing places face a host of challenges, from reinventing failing cities, to creating emotional connections to new urban developments. As citizens and visitors, we seek to build belonging in our everyday on the ground experience, and weave our own lives into the places we love. Stories are universal ways to engage us, and help us understand our world. So what if we applied narrative to the way we create and communicate places?
Local Legends sets out to explore a new perspective and process — Narrative Placemaking — based on the notion that something as simple as a story can add immense value to our cities, landscapes and destinations. Learning from pioneering storytellers and placemakers we seek to uncover how stories could be our superpower in building better places.
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Five reasons narrative placemaking is relevant right now
We’re more conscious than ever of national identity
The migrant crisis, Brexit, and political extremes have sharpened our focus. The notion of ‘Nationhood’ is place wrapped up in narrative; stories about our shared cultures that have sunk into society’s psyche. Can we clarify our national identities and the places that represent them through strong stories? For those forced to flee, can they carry their cultures with them through stories to establish new homes elsewhere?
We're strive to belong anywhere
We seek adventure as we travel and migrate, the boundaries between residents and tourists have become blurred. New nomads make their lives footloose and friendships global. Yet there are migrations we choose and those that are enforced. Our end destination can draw us on dangerous journeys with the simple notion of a better place as a prayer to propel us. Places have to try harder to attract us thousands of miles across the world. Can narrative shape our adventures and create thrill in the places we discover? Can adventure make us comfortable in not knowing how the story of a place will end?
We're looking for the real deal
With greater choice and information at hand, we’ve more discerning: experts at sniffing out fakes and always on the lookout for 'truer' experiences. It’s too easy for those developing destinations to assume a formula for success and emulate other places. But content is king: real stories and experiences win hearts. Can true stories translate to a genuine and particular on the ground to an experience?
Urbanism & Development
We’re building at lightening pace
Time is money and the world has upped the tempo. One side-effect is that those who live in a place have less time to get to know it. This might lead to superficial relationships when we’re looking for long term connections. So we need to find a way to catalyse an emotional connection: a ‘love at first sight’ speed dating for places. Can narrative be more than the chat up line we're looking for?
We’re re-conceiving sites with past lives
As we build on brownfield, once proud and productive places, we encounter histories, themes that reveal the DNA of a place. Our challenge is to turn past stories into the threads of a future story and reveal what a place might become. Can narrative be the bridge from origins to future?