Place Making for Vibrant Communities

As a result of the transition from a modern to post-modern society, and the realization that the earth’s resources are finite, a diversity of uses needs to be created in order to balance out the increasing social and economic pressures in inner city and urban areas. In order to achieve the ideal of a liveable, sustainable city, we must focus on the various aspects of urban regeneration. A growing problem the town planner has to contend with is the constant presence of destructive instruments that are working their way through inner cities causing premature urban decline.

Accordingly, it is important that the characteristics and functions of urban regeneration are revisited in order to adopt new approaches and improve on the methods that have traditionally been used to improve inner city areas to help solve the problem of urban degeneration. Although some attention is paid to urban regeneration in South Africa, we lack a dedicated set of policies and legislation aimed at maximizing the potential benefits of the process. For urban regeneration to be successful, there should be greater involvement from the community and the various aspects of the urban environment such as its economic, artistic, logistic, cultural, marketing, natural, and institutional potential need to be exploited to have the desired outcome.

Last February, the eThekwini Municipality approved the formation of the Cultural Precinct in the city centre. However; it was only in December 2020 that the Municipality asked the UIP Company to provide supplementary services in the area. The Cultural Precinct adjoins both our existing CBD and NEBD Precincts and part of our NEBD is physically located within the boundaries of the Cultural Precinct. The Municipality views the establishment of the Cultural Precinct as its latest “Place Making” initiative together with the creation of “Corridors of Excellence” that link Durban’s Beachfront to the cultural heart of the city.

Place making 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, place making refers to a collaborative process by which we can shape our public realm in order to maximize shared value. More than just promoting better urban design, place making facilitates creative patterns of use, paying particular attention to the physical, cultural, and social identities that define a place and support its ongoing evolution. Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody,  only if and when they are created by everybody.

As our NEBD Precinct has many cultural buildings and attractions, it makes perfect sense from every perspective, to view the Cultural Precinct as an extension of our existing NEBD Precinct, rather than a standalone project. With over twenty years of experience in the immediate and adjacent areas, the UIP Company is ideally placed to oversee and implement all aspects of proposed upgrades that the City’s Place Making Plan may call for. As an integral part of the Place Making Steering Committee, the UIP Company works in close collaboration with the architects and town planners responsible, providing valuable insight and information to help them make informed decisions and get things done right from the outset.

Public space is inherently multidimensional. Successful and genuine public spaces are used by many different people for many different purposes at many different times of the day and the year. Because public spaces harbour so many uses and users or fail to do so; they are also where a staggering cross-section of local and global issues converge. Public space is for negotiating the interface between our homes, our businesses, our institutions, and the broader world. And when we let it, public space can also be a medium for creativity, expression, and experimentation. In short, public space is where so many tragedies and triumphs of everyday life play out. And that’s why getting it right matters.

Most great places, whether a grand downtown plaza or humble neighbourhood park, share four key attributes: They are accessible and well connected to other important places in the area. They are comfortable and project a good image. They attract people to participate in activities there. They are sociable environments in which people want to gather and visit time and again. The main issue areas where we believe place making can have the most transformative impact are: equity and inclusion, streets as places, architecture of place, innovation hubs, market cities, place governance, sustainability and resilience, rural communities, creative placemaking and, health.

To be successful, cities need destinations. They need destinations that give an identity and image to their communities, and that help attract new residents, businesses, and investment. But they also need strong community destinations that attract people. A destination might be a downtown square, a main street, a waterfront, a park, or a museum. Cities of all sizes should have at least ten destinations where people want to be. What makes each destination successful is that it has multiple places within it. For example, a square needs at least ten places: a café, a children’s play area, a place to read the paper or drink a cup of coffee, a place to also sit, somewhere to meet friends, etc. Within each of the places, there should be multiple things to do. Cumulatively, these activities, places and destinations are what make a great city.