Placemaking Toolkit: Designing People Places

Author UN-Habitat

This publication by the UN-Habitat looks at turning ‘public’ spaces into ‘living’ places that support the well-being of local communities within the context of Palestinian communities administered by the Israeli authorities. Whilst the document explores this concept in a Palestinian context, some aspects and ideas may be useful for other places.

Date added 3 September 2020
Last updated 3 September 2020

This publication by the UN-Habitat looks at turning ‘public’ spaces into ‘living’ places that support the wellbeing of local communities within the context of Palestinian communities in the Israeli controlled Area C. Here, placemaking is best realised through a ‘Do It Yourself Urbanism’ approach to both the planning and design of public spaces as well as the management of these in order to ensure they clearly mirror a broadly supported vision, organic orders, and proper functions.

As such, the document is divided into three parts:

  • Part 1 explores what placemaking, and people places are.

The document defines people places as “places that are shared by a community and valued by them because of the way they are designed, built and used”. The document further argues that people places are important as local surroundings will impact on what people feel they can and cannot do in their neighbourhoods. There are different types of people places including streets, laneways and footpaths, parks and open spaces, and public buildings.

  • Part 2 provides insights into each of the steps to building and designing a people place and the people required to be involved.

The document highlights the key stakeholders for designing and building people places as well as the roles they serve. There are four key players noted: civil society, government, professionals, and donors. People places can be designed and built when these key stakeholders align their interests and resources to achieve shared goals. The civil society includes members of the community, community groups and private landowners. These are usually the main beneficiaries and possess good local knowledge. The government is responsible for the design and building of people places being carried out in accordance with relevant laws. Many - both national and international bodies - help Palestine by donating their skills and resources and can be crucial in making a difference. On the expert side, people in the fields of planning, landscape, architecture, urban design and other related fields can apply their creativity, professional insights and experiences to solve community challenges.

  • Part 3 provides insights into useful components when creating a people place and the principals needed to apply these ideas in practice.

There are some core principles that a people place reflects. It solves more than one problem with each concept. It considers temporal aspects and potential change occurring over time. It respects the soul of the place, meaning it focuses on maintaining familiar elements that resonates with people. It avoids unintentional biases by attempting to not prioritise some considerations over others. It builds community and a sense of positive momentum, and lastly, it ensures that responsibilities fall at the most appropriate level.