Section 5︎︎︎ Making Place

“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”

—Jane Jacobs,  Life and Death of Great American Cities

All places are designed and shaped by the human mind and hand, whether it is intentional or not. We create place by utilizing and living in the world around us. Recently, there has been a push to recreate place in our urban environments through an effort called “placemaking,” as a way of combating years of urban planning that is discriminatory and car oriented. These placemaking projects aim to make a space that is enjoyable that people want to spend time in. As well intentioned as these projects may be, they often come from one-sided approaches in a top-down implementation, contrary to the organic growth of places over time. But, there are many ways to make places beyond “placemaking” techniques and they exist beyond the urban street. Designing a place is about creating and fostering the human experience and connection with the place. At its base, designing place can include spatial elements, but it is rooted in experience design,in which you provide the structure for individuals to have their own experiences rather than prescribed experiences. Examples in this section go beyond the traditional understandings of place design via architecture and urban design.
    One way to control the associations of place is by shaping and adjusting the forms of place and the place identity through ‘place branding.” Capitalizing on the concept of place identity, and the ideas and forms it gives places, the marketing and design world have taken to making their own place branding. Trying to utilize the power of place identity, place branding tries to tell different or unified stories to attract visitors, new residents, and even just to combat a bad public image. I Amsterdam FIGURE 20 is a successful identity that became a gold standard of tourist interventions. The giant letters attracted millions of visitors as it coincided with the rise of the camera phone and selfie culture. Many places around the world have adopted similar large scale interactive instillations. A design firm working in the world of place branding is London based dn&co; utilizing their developed concept of place purpose, they try to foster an identity beyond the monoculture of traditional place branding that accurately represents the place and people that live there.19 Their work has been seen worldwide trying to foster place in new developments and neighborhoods in an encompassing manner. FIGURE 21

We also create place on an indirect and superficial level through the media we consume. There is an obsession in our society with place both real and imagined, and the entertainment industry as a whole thrives off storytelling and creating places. The setting and place is often an important aspect in any media we consume, be the television, movies, or books. The use of place in these forms of entertainment creates a false attachment to a place, real or imagined. False attachment is the creation of place memory and attachment that has been designed or made for the individual rather than fostering from their own lived experience. There are two types of false place attachment: manufactured place and represented place. Manufactured place thrives on creating and actualizing the fantasy place. Iconic examples of manufactured place include Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and Middle-earth from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Represented place provides attachment to a real place, occasionally historical. This is evident in television shows set in New York like Friends where people develop an attachment to the real city and a fictional apartment that they have not personally experienced. It is designers behind the screen that make these places a reality for their viewers. Annie Atkins created the world of the Grand Budapest Hotel, by Wes Anderson, through her stunning graphic displays. FIGURE 22 Utilizing beautiful stationary, calligraphy, and even prop product packaging, she was able to fabricate a representational and manufactured world that fit the Wes Anderson aesthetic.
    There is also the creation of space both physical and virtual that help foster manufactured sense of place. The tourism industry in general relies on the creation of physical places to attract visitors. All-inclusive resorts that you never have to leave and cruise ships that you cannot leave are examples of the manufactured place, but theme parks take the practice of place creation to the extreme. Theme parks are an extremely popular destination for vacations, for example Walt Disney Theme Parks worldwide had over 157 million visitors in 2018.20 People are attracted to manufactured place that exudes its “magic” utilizing nostalgia from our childhoods and controlling all aspects of place to preserve that fairy tale. FIGURE 23 As case in point, Disney World created a specialized trash removal system, so that visitors would never see or smell garbage in order to preserve the illusion manufactured through their excessive use of place creation. There is no stone left unturned for them, even ride lines are designed to always keep visitors engaged in something, and to ignore the fact that they are standing out in the sun in Florida in the middle of July.
    The video game industry, which earned $152.1 billion in 2019,21 is also a big contender in place creation. Traditional videogames often rely on setting and place creation to become an immersive experience for their players. Massive multiplayer online role-playing games take this to impressive heights, creating whole worlds for players to explore along with the ability to interact with other players, all within the confines of the internet. World of Warcraft  FIGURE 24 is one of the most popular games of this style, which sees 4.8 million users annually, which is down from previous years, but has reached a lifetime subscriber count of 100 million players.22 This is only expected to advance further as the technology of augmented reality and virtual reality increase, allowing for completely immersive online places for people to visit and explore, as evident in the viral sensation of Pokemon Go in 2016. FIGURE 25 The online platform for space and place has increased tremendously since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 with most human interaction becoming virtual. This forced shift in societal norms asked people to push the bounds of what public space is and become innovative in an online space. Is the virtual world the next place?

19. dn&co.

20. AECOM. Global Attractions Attendance Report. 2018

21. AECOM. Global Attractions Attendance Report. 2018

22. Statista.

© Michael Rosenberg