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What is Placemaking?

Updated November 06, 2020
a headshot of Joshua Hofer

Joshua Hofer

SDSU Extension Community Vitality Field Specialist

A diverse group of young adults meeting inside a repurposed barn.

In our work “Creating Vibrant Places,” you will often find us referencing the term “placemaking.” While there are a variety of definitions, we particularly appreciate this one from the excellent work of the non-profit organization Project for Public Spaces. If you are interested in learning more about placemaking, they are a great place to start!

Placemaking Defined

Placemaking inspires people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces as the heart of every community. Strengthening the connection between people and the places they share, placemaking refers to a collaborative process by which we can shape our public realm to maximize shared value. More than just promoting better urban design, placemaking facilitates creative patterns of use, paying particular attention to the physical, cultural, and social identities that define a place and support its ongoing evolution.

Placemaking is:

  • Community-driven
  • Visionary
  • Function before form
  • Adaptable
  • Inclusive
  • Focused on creating destinations
  • Context-specific
  • Dynamic
  • Trans-disciplinary
  • Transformative
  • Flexible
  • Collaborative
  • Sociable

Placemaking is not:

  • Top-down
  • Reactionary
  • Design-driven
  • A blanket solution or quick fix
  • Exclusionary
  • Car-centric
  • One-size-fits-all
  • Static
  • Discipline-driven
  • One-dimensional
  • Dependent on regulatory controls
  • A cost/benefit analysis
  • Project-focused

    In South Dakota

    By this definition, placemaking is possible for communities of all shapes and sizes in South Dakota. There are aspects that are more challenging, particularly in our rural areas. For instance, noting that placemaking is not “car-centric” may be a red flag for extremely rural regions. However, the crucial thing to ascertain is the appropriate scale of the activity. When the goals, strategies, and tactics of a given endeavor are correctly measured, placemaking is no less appropriate in an extremely rural community than a highly dense, urban one.


    What Is Placemaking? Project for Public Spaces, 2007.