Some personal reflections after Placemaking Week Europe 2023
It took me a couple of weeks to thoroughly reflect upon and digest the experiences I had during Placemaking Week Europe 2023. Allow me to be forthright in my admission: I do not believe it is necessary to become ensnared in a semantic debate concerning the precise definition of placemaking –as Reiner de Graaf seems to do. Placemaking, in its essence, is more about action than it is about definitions. It serves as a resounding call to action, a concept that harmonizes with the actual deeds and initiatives of individuals.
In all my years of attending conferences and gatherings, I have never encountered an event where virtually everyone I engaged with had initiated tangible, practical projects aimed at enhancing their respective locales and communities in recent times. My encounters included individuals who have installed street pianos, urban beekeepers, organizations dedicated to integrating sex workers into the urban planning process, and activists vehemently opposing the financialization of housing and the associated eviction crises. While these undertakings might appear modest, they represent incremental steps toward addressing the larger, pervasive issues within our communities. Placemaking, at its core, epitomizes the translation of utopian ideals into tangible realities, fostering the co-design of futures one bench and one square at a time.
While Placemaking is a powerful force for positive change, it is essential to acknowledge that it is not a silver bullet. We still have to think and act to push for meaningful transformative change. It’s an ongoing journey, but Placemaking Week provides a platform where we can all come together, learn, and share ideas honestly about what we can do to make a better world, not just for us but for every living entity.
So, I do not care what exactly Placemaking is as long as it continues to push us to do. No better concept has been invented yet to serve as an umbrella for everyone who is dedicated to improving their cities from the community up. From street artists to urban gardeners, from social workers to economists of the commons, Placemaking unites them all in the pursuit of more vibrant, inclusive, and sustainable communities.
My gratitude extends to all those who have made Placemaking Week Europe 2023 a reality. From every contributor who collaborated in shaping the program to our devoted team and board members, and the city of Strasbourg’s facilitative team, each of you played an integral role in manifesting this vision.
Let us not become entangled in the intricacies of definitions, but rather, let us focus on the core of Placemaking—the tangible actions, practical solutions, and community-driven initiatives that are reshaping our cities and the world at large. Placemaking transcends semantics; it is a testament to genuine, constructive, and meaningful change. Let us persist in our pursuit of a better world, one placemaking initiative at a time.