The Project for Public Spaces defines placemaking as a formal process of improving public spaces, but I'm wondering if there isn't personal or vernacular form of placemaking that occurs as an emergent property of individual and community behaviors. My brother, with a masters in Urban Planning, says that placemaking only pertains to the process at the formal level and ceases to have meaning in informal settings. So what do we call this form of intrinsic placemaking - what is the name for the behaviors that help us understand and connect to a place?
I've been thinking about this recently because of two articles from the December 5, 2011 issue of the New Yorker. While the subject matter is dramatically different, both consider place through personal and communal lenses. You'll need a subscription to access the articles in their entirety, but the quotes convey the basic gist. I'm going to pour another beer and engage my brother in a deeper discussion. Hopefully we'll come up with something...
The Tao of WiFi by Lauren Collins
Like architecture and restaurants, wireless names suggest the character of a neighborhood.
A literary approach to wardriving, Alexandra Janelli sleuths wifi networks to uncover the very particular and personal characteristic of neighborhoods.
Mapping Home by Aleksandar Hemon
I gradually became aware that my interiority was inseparable from my exteriority, that the geography of my city was the geography of my soul. Physically and metaphysically, I was placed.
Because anonymity was well nigh impossible and privacy literally incomprehensible (there is no word for “privacy” in Bosnian), your fellow-Sarajevans knew you as well as you knew them. If you somehow vanished, your fellow-citizens could have reconstructed you from their collective memory and the gossip that had accrued over years. Your sense of who you were, your deepest identity, was determined by your position in a human network, whose physical corollary was the architecture of the city.
In which the author tracks his personal history from old Sarajevo, to Chicago, to new Sarajevo and begins to understand place through the process of learning a new city and remembering the old.