A post by Denis Blewett for Geog 464 2021
After spending the past six weeks learning a variety of content in Geography 464, I came up with the following vision that I feel combines many of the aspects of the course content. If one had to fully realize the following vision for social justice, involving the use of community art, placemaking, resiliency and allowing the entire community to come together as one. One of my main takeaways from this class was just how impactful placemaking and the design of a city can be on the outcome of the community that ends up living there. A city designed with the people in mind is sure to be inclusive, resilient and impactful.
Images of Placemaking in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland
After a quick search on google images of the keyword “future cities”, the very first image that pops up is a typical Hollywood utopian skyrise and concrete jungle which is pictured here. Medium (2021), discusses the fact that around the world, over 50% of the world’s population lives in an urban area, and this percentage is only going to increase as time goes on. Due to this rapid need for urbanization however, there are many challenges which are faced by cities around the world. The well known challenges include transportation, housing, jobs, and access to the necessary services. However, not listed in these challenges of rapid urbanization is the need to create inclusive and creative spaces for the individuals of these communities. So…
Imagine living in a world where in order to create a city, the city’s designers had no option other than to incorporate large open green spaces throughout the entirety of the city, design beautiful, eye-catching and fun buildings, and involve venues where the community could hold artist exhibitions, festivals, concerts and other community gatherings. If all of these were requirements, the sense of community resiliency, appreciation for the local culture and respect for one’s city would all be at a level which is unheard of in today’s world.
Cohen, Gajendran, Lloyd, Maund, Smith, Bhim & Vaughan, (2018) define creative placemaking as “the utilisation of artistic and event-based practices to make a place more interesting and vibrant”. Creative placemaking is a concept which should be at the forefront of any city designer’s mind when they are first visualizing the future of any city. Unhabitat.org (2021), mentions that there are many people who need to be involved in helping to nurture that sense of belonging and sense of community attachment, including the city architects, the planners, urban designers, and engineers. However, these individuals also need to have the skills to ensure that what they create has the ability to contribute to the quality of life of the individual’s in the future community. Cohen et al., (2018) discuss creativity involving the physical environment of a city, such as murals and public art, as well as the need for studios, art related businesses and event venues where festivals and performances can take place. The resources used to achieve creative placemaking should be sourced from the local artists and communities that the city will serve, meaning that instead of outsourcing artists, the city designer should ensure that they place a focus on showcasing local talent in any way possible.
When people are asked to think of a future city, often times a concrete jungle is what comes to mind. There is no open space or squares, there is a lack of greenery, and minimal vibrant art. This is a major flaw in how we perceive the future of our cities and is something that needs to be addressed to ensure that a zeitgeist shift takes place very soon, which will place more focus on the positive aspects of city design (placemaking, green spaces and community). When it comes to understanding what types of places can involve placemaking and be spaces for the community, Unhabitat.org (2021) describes anywhere which is a space shared by the entire community, where a strong community lifestyle takes place: parks, community buildings, streets, squares, etc. These community spaces should be designed with the idea in mind of meeting multiple needs of the people who will be using them (Unhabitat.org, 2021). These spaces should foster a desire to engage in both social activities as well as recreational and be spaces which draw the community in, so they feel like they are engaged and not missing out.
Now that the COVID pandemic is looking to be something that is soon to be in the world’s rearview mirror, communities and the rest of the world are able to move forward and think about other issues. For individual communities, it is of absolute necessity that the focus needs to be shifted more towards how we craft our cities and communities as we move forwards into the future. Additional care needs to be taken on emphasizing community, togetherness, and a focus on local history and culture in order to improve public spaces. This is especially important as the world begins to heal from the heavy restrictions of the pandemic, such as how in the past two years, there has been minimal physical contact, limited access to certain resources and no local gatherings. Now that places are beginning to open up again, and as we slowly return to normal, it is a perfect opportunity for cities to work to create spaces which are inclusive, vibrant, creative and foster a strong sense of local community.
Although Vancouver tends to do better when it comes to urban planning than many other cities around the world, one of the biggest flaws of the design of the City of Vancouver according to Bronson (2016), is the idea of making places fun. Although the city is designed well, there aren’t nearly enough places which people love, there needs to be an increase in the number of places designed which focus on making these venues a fun and unique experiences for individuals and draw them in, simply due to the urban design. Some fantastic examples of the few venues which do a good job of this include the newly opened Nemesis coffee. Pictured here, Nemesis coffee opened a beautiful location which draws people in, due to it’s fun design of a red flower-shaped building. This is a great example of placemaking, as it’s flower design is something unique and causes people to come from the surrounding communities to witness it, after which, they will most likely purchase a coffee and socialize in and around the building, as well as come to the area more often in the future.
The Covid pandemic resulted in many restaurants only being able to stay open through the use of street patios, in particular in the City of Vancouver due to limited restaurant size. Though these street patios were a lifeline for many restaurants, they also helped to eliminate the vision of cities filled with traffic jams and being concrete jungles, instead, as one can see from the image displayed here, they fostered an idea of community resiliency as the community supported these businesses through the pandemic, as well as just the sight of crowds of people on the streets dining and enjoying their time out. The City of Vancouver has just recently approved these temporary street patios being made permanent until at least June of 2022, and in a post pandemic time, these street patios could lead to an increase in socialization of the community, appreciation for the streets of the city and a renewed appreciation for the potential that the streets of a city can have – rather than simply being filled with traffic.
Through placemaking and making sure we have venues for events, additional awareness for BIPOC communities and art exhibitions which focus on artists that create a voice for BIPOC communities. In doing this, greater awareness for social justice, and the promotion of equal rights and treatment within communities and our world as a whole can be achieved. Additionally, in the City of Vancouver, an emphasis on First Nations art is of utmost importance to help create a better understanding of our country’s history and to create a more inclusive future community. A fantastic example of placemaking which has taken place just outside the city of Vancouver, in the centre of a roundabout in Chilliwack. Pictured here, Chilliwack.com (2021) explains that the piece was designed by Squiala First Nation Chief David Jimmie and Bonny Graham, Coast Salish artist, in consultation with the Stó:lō Nation Chiefs Council and Ts’elxwéyeqw Tribe. As an explanation of the artpiece, it showcases a a Stó:lō/ Coast Salish traditional canoe on top of an upper ring of stainless steel. This ring of steel is embossed with a salmon and wave design and the Halq’eméylem text “Ey kwesé é mi” meaning “It’s good that you are here…welcome”. Finally, the posts which support the ring are eight paddles, which have seven emblems representing the seven Ts’elxwéyeqw communities, and the eighth displaying the City of Chilliwack logo.
Chilliwack.com. 2021. Vedder Roundabout Art – City of Chilliwack. [online] Available at: <https://www.chilliwack.com/main/page.cfm?id=2882> [Accessed 19 June 2021].
Cohen, M., Gajendran, T., Lloyd, J., Maund, K., Smith, C., Bhim, S. and Vaughan, J. (2018). Valuing creative placemaking: development of a toolkit for public and private stakeholders. NSW Government, Landcom: Sydney, Australia.
Medium. 2021. Our Future in Cities. [online] Available at: <https://medium.com/studiotmd/our-future-in-cities-e32b3ffc444d> [Accessed 19 June 2021].
Ramli, N. and Ujang, N., 2020. Adaptation of Social Attributes of Place in Creative Placemaking towards Social Sustainability. Asian Journal of Quality of Life, 5(18), pp.1-18.
Unhabitat.org. 2021. Placemaking Toolkit: Designing People Places – A toolkit for communities and designers to design and implement public spaces and buildings in Palestine | UN-Habitat. [online] Available at: <https://unhabitat.org/placemaking-toolkit-designing-people-places-a-toolkit-for-communities-and-designers-to-design-and> [Accessed 19 June 2021].