Urban Placemaking and Management

In the past 10–12 years there has been a paradigm shift in thinking about planning and urban design, from a primary focus on buildings to a focus on the spaces between buildings—“public space.” Rather than allowing these spaces to be formed as an afterthought of building design, Placemaking sees the creation of successful public spaces as the starting point, which in turn dictates the siting and design of other components of the urban fabric. Placemaking approaches public space from a people perspective—based on community needs and programming. It incorporates a wide variety of professional and technical skills such as community building, economics, sustainability, management, urban design, and landscape design. “Placemakers” need to understand the role that each of these disciplines plays in creating and maintaining successful public spaces and be able to manage the process of placemaking. Case studies of successful public spaces demonstrate the importance of placemaking in supporting successful communities and in the livability and health of a city.

The program is ideal for students with professionally oriented undergraduate education, professional degrees, or professional experience in architecture, engineering, environmental, landscape design, urban planning and related studies. Students are immersed in the core skills of analysis, conceptual design, and management of the public realm in cities. The 40-credit program equips students to qualify for employment in a range of institutional, governmental, nonprofit, and private-sector settings. Students gain a broad theoretical knowledge of the historical, political, and social frameworks with which to conceptualize the public realm, while developing skills to analyze urban space and understand the relationship of public space to public policy and private development. Through studios and internships, students gain further practical understanding of the planning and design of public space, including management and the integration of the principles of sustainability into public-space development.

The core knowledge and skill-base of placemaking as a discipline, are delivered over four semesters through a combination of lectures, seminars, case studies, and studio-based exercises. Students pursue a curriculum of study structured by four academic knowledge streams: Design and Infrastructure; Economics; Planning and Policy; and Management. The program offers flexibility to students to develop advanced knowledge and skills through electives in three areas of focus, each corresponding to an area of employment for placemakers:

  • Community-Based Design
  • Parks, Open Space, and Green Infrastructure
  • Transportation and Main Street Management

Graduates are equipped to effectively analyze, manage, and influence the complex process of public-realm design and management.

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