For someone who makes a living revitalizing city spaces, Fred Kent has an interesting take on professional urban designers: he thinks they're overrated. The real urban design experts, he says, are the ordinary people who actually live and work within a community. And with his nonprofit organization, Project for Public Spaces (PPS), Kent is doing his best to empower them.
Founded in 1975, Project for Public Spaces helps community members design, plan, and manage public spaces by considering their own needs and values. Kent calls this process Placemaking, and he has used it to transform popular landmarks around the world, including Detroit's historic Eastern Market, Houston's Discovery Green park, and New York City's Times Square. Here, he discusses the difference between Placemaking and traditional design, how public spaces can foster stronger communities, and why ordinary people make the best urban planners.
What do you say when people ask you, "What do you do?"
We use a different approach to designing and planning cities -- not a top-down approach, but a community-led approach that focuses on places. We see it as a sacred duty to help people create good places for themselves. To achieve that, we talk to the people who live, work, and play in a particular space. We ask them questions. We listen to them. We find out what they need and what they aspire to. Then we take that information and create a vision, which can evolve quickly into a strategy for implementing change. The transformation of a place can begin with small-scale, doable improvements that bring immediate benefits to public spaces and the people who use them.
|JR, Intrepid French Street Artist|
|Candy Chang, Public Installation Artist and Designer|
|Ann Cooper, Renegade Lunch Lady|
|Alice Dreger, Health and Sexuality Expert|
In over 35 years we have worked with 3,000 communities in 42 countries, allowing people to define and create places that become the soul of their neighborhoods, cities, towns, regions, and even their countries. Our process delivers results that increasingly reflect concerns such as sustainability, health, and economic development.