Something's changing in placemaking — and it's not just creative, it's narrative

Something's changing in placemaking — and it's not just creative, it's narrative

5 minute read / Rosanna Vitiello

The way we conceive and create and places is evolving. While all eyes are on 'placemaking' as a discipline, it's still a term that throws up confusion. There's a gap in understanding what makes a sense of place, and how we can shape that. We have a hunch that narrative could be placemaking's secret superpower, and this project will explore how and why.

Stories may sound soft, but they’re powerful
A strong story is a universal way to help us define and understand our world. As our citycapes and landscapes evolve ever more swiftly and as we travel and migrate more frequently, there's a greater need to weave a narrative into our places to give them meaning and help us communicate that to others. Used with flair this approach can reinvent failing cities, create consensus or build belonging. Once established, this emotional tug at the heartstrings is hard to break — and our connection to a place is made concrete. But it goes beyond mere marketing. What if we integrated the narrative process into the way we create, communicate and experience places?

Diverging viewpoints drawn together
With so many perspectives involved in placemaking, it can’t be explored from a single standpoint. Listening to expert storytellers and placemakers this research project will explore the hidden processes and tools behind well-known narratives, how they add value, and how they can be woven into a re-imagined creative process. Learning from cinematographers to urban planners, from travel writers to developers, we'll bring together our findings and our community to develop narrative tools and tactics to make better places.

Provocative perspectives, powerful places
Each of our interviewees is somewhat of a legend in their own field — a provocateur or a pioneer with a belief that narrative can unlock the power of place. Each of the places we cover is defined by a story, conceived and created from scratch or patch-worked together over the years. 

So what skills does it take to connect a legend to a locality? 
Can we use story as a material to design, craft and build a place?
How could we spark an urban myth to let a story grow? 
How do we hand that story over to those who inhabit a place to make their own?

Time to explore ...