Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Today, placemaking is everywhere we look. 

We’ve seen the concept emerge as a grassroots movement, empowering citizens to work together to improve public spaces, one community-driven initiative at a time. Yet we are also becoming privy to the role of placemaking as a professional design technique – one that can yield positive long-term community sentiment and a competitive commercial edge for businesses working to improve our public places. 

These two elements – achieving human-focused design that effectively delivers for specific communities and capturing the results-driven, commercial side of placemaking – form the thematic umbrella of the inaugural Australian Placemaking Summit, held 25-26 March in Melbourne. 

The Australian Placemaking Summit is all-inclusive. It will allow practitioners across the built environment sector to understand where their expertise fits into the placemaking puzzle, while providing attendees with a holistic view of what’s happening placemaking-wise in Australia and globally. Ultimately, the summit is designed to equip professionals with the knowledge to use both timely and enduring placemaking frameworks to their advantage.   

Robin Abad Ocubillo, Senior Planner in Urban Design at San Francisco’s Planning Department, will provide a US perspective at the summit. 

Ocubillo’s presentation will explore how San Francisco’s public and private constituencies collaborated in an effort to transform public spaces through placemaking. He will also unpack how placemaking can be strengthened through the tactical urbanism approach, which is an increasingly popular, low-cost and short-term method of neighbourhood building. 

Joining Ocubillo as the second international speaker touching down to present at the summit is Frith Walker, Panuku Development Auckland’s Manager, Placemaking. 

Walker will draw on her experience creating successful “place networks” to explore why placemaking should always begin with place. Her speech will also unpack how, despite the corner of the globe we each occupy, humans are not all that different when it comes to planning, making and living in urban areas. 

The urban renewal transition occurring in Fishermans Bend, located within the Cities of Melbourne and Port Phillip, will reshape each precinct occupying the former industrial area into distinct mixed-use neighbourhoods facilitating human-scale interaction. City of Port Phillip CEO Peter Smith will analyse how placemaking will aid Fishermans Bend’s transition precinct by precinct, while exploring the opportunities that exist to further activate Australia’s largest urban renewal area. 

For large-scale projects like Fishermans Bend and even those on a smaller level, gaining data about what humans actually need can be the difference between a successful placemaking initiative and one that falls flat. Social analytics platform Neighbourlytics, co-founded by Melbourne-based Lucinda Hartley and Jessica Christiansen-Franks, synthesises a broad range of digital data to help governments, planners and developers deliver better economic and social value within communities. The data has been utilised by city-makers including City of Gold Coast, Visit Scotland, Lendlease, and the Victorian Planning Authority. 

Lucinda Hartley will present on the role of data within placemaking. She will explore how new technology can transform the way we understand and plan for cities and, when we learn how to create human-centred places with human-focused data, inject more health into our neighbourhoods. 

The role of effective landscape design in elevating the health of our neighbourhoods will also be explored at the summit, in the form of a panel discussion led by experts in landscape design and placemaking. The panel will discuss what makes a great place from an architect’s perspective, while exploring how landscape design fits into the overall process of a placemaking project, from planning to design to maintenance. 

Panellists include Anna Chauvel from placemaking and landscape design firm Place Laboratory, Deakin University Head of Architecture & Built Environment Dr Beau Beza, and Associate Director of award-winning design firm McGregorCoxall Deborah Kuh. 

With over 35 speakers and 6+ hours of networking rounding out the Australian Placemaking Summit, the event is a goldmine for leaders, contractors and practitioners looking to gain a competitive edge from their placemaking work, while fostering better public spaces for Australia’s diverse neighbourhoods and ultimately, its people. The Australian Placemaking Summit will be held on the 25-26 March at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre. 


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