The cob building in Toronto's Dufferin Grove Park (Photo: Chris Orbz/Flickr)
It might sound like it’s something from an episode of Portlandia — and with good reason. Placemaking, though rooted in the 1960s' urban-planning philosophies of Jane Jacobs and William H. Whyte, owes its resurgence to a Portland, Oregon-based action group called The City Repair Project.
(Portland, Oregon Placemaking site)
In a nutshell, placemaking is the action of taking an underused or under-accessed public space and transforming it into something creative and positive. Typical examples of placemaking would be the placement of lawn chairs in a common neighbourhood area, to ever-growing cob oven installations, to take-a-book, leave-a-book outdoor community library stands. To qualify as genuine placemaking, a project must originate at a grassroots level among neighbours, without government or commercial involvement.
“The project itself becomes a means to build a community,” City Repair co-founder Mark Lakeman told the Vancouver Sun.
Over the last two decades, Portland has seen the creation of about 350 placemaking spots, which Lakeman says reduce negative social problems like vandalism by keeping people, especially young people, engaged in their communities.
Last summer, the Vancouver Tool Library, a local tool-lending collective, initiated City Commons — a multi-day, city-wide placemaking event. The group is continuing to offer courses in placemaking, anchored by Lakeman.
In Nova Scotia, the community group Placemaking Halifax launched the first community-driven street-painting project in Canada at the intersection at Black Street and Northwood Terrace.
And In Toronto, the Friends of Dufferin Grove have created an earthen courtyard wall project consisting of a cob stove, a cob-composting toilet facility (the bio-toilet), benches and related activities in other parks
In Canada, there are currently no nation-wide groups or organizations such as ArtPlace America, which to date has invested $42.1 million to 134 placemaking projects in 80 communities.