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The Art of Creative Placemaking

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Sudarshan Uppunda
Sudarshan Uppunda
Born & brought up in Bombay, based in Bengaluru, Sudarshan is an ambivert who can be outgoing-open and reserved at the same time. It all depends on the vibes! He deeply believes in vibes and personal energies. As an Architectural Journalist and Architect, he aims to write in a way that his content is relatable for all. Design is what interests him the most and he keeps trying his hand at different design verticals such as graphic, UI & UX design at times. He likes to write and explore varied topics on Workplace environments, Architecture, and Culture. He is quite active in architectural content writing and has written for various platforms like RTF, The Arch Insider, Gharpedia, etc. He strongly believes that whatever one does in life, one must do it with passion & be happy with it.

Have you ever bumped into the street or a locality that has made you sense a difference? This could be a difference in the way a space is curated, or a difference in the ambience and fabric of the surroundings. Have you seen a street or a locality that is adorned with visual arts, wall murals and installations? The art of planning such spaces is what we call ‘The art of creative placemaking’. Creative placemaking is a phenomenon that helps to create enhanced public engagement through visual arts and culture. This is usually a joint moment by the artists, communities, NGO’s and other stakeholders trying to implement a community-led change. Thus, by means of art and space planning, awareness is being induced. This helps in adding a sense to our urban spaces, thus enhancing the vibrancy of urban life.

The Approach

The foremost approach to creative placemaking involves seeking answers to the following questions.

  • What is the ‘change’ that a community is looking forward to achieve?
  • What kind of ‘Art’ do a certain community can relate to?
  • What kind of space is the community wanting to transform?

Achieving answers to these can give an initial insight to the project. Thus a strategy can be developed based on the required approach.

The Strategy

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jaume plensa, behind the walls, 2019, rockefeller center, new york
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Qawwali Musicians at Haji Ali Dargah, Mumbai

Creative Placemaking strategies are developed to promote a social change, cultural importance, economic development and improve the physical environment. Some of these innovative strategies are as follows:

  1. Art and culture such as paintings, sculptures and installations are used at public spaces. Sometimes busker musicians are seen at street corners and public spaces to signify the importance of the space or moment through music.

2. Communities, NGO’s and associations come together to contribute and work towards some social cause or in the maintenance of certain strategically important sites.

3. Some ruins of historical importance are revamped and converted as tourist spaces. Defunct spaces of the city are revamped and put in to use for public activities.

Placemaking thus acts as a means to induce development in the quality of urban space and lifestyle. Innovative placemaking attracts more social and economic development using tourism and housing. Thus all of these contribute towards development.

Examples

The following are examples of creative placemaking projects in India:

1. Giant Murals on buildings at Dharavi

Asia’s largest slum –Dharavi, Mumbai has got a new look with enhanced vibrancy. Artists from around the world have turned the dusty buildings of the Shahu Nagar – Dharavi slums into giant lively canvases. This is an example of placemaking where artists communities and other stakeholders have tried to bring in innovation on the otherwise congested streets and create an ‘art statement’ for Asia’s largest slum.

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Artists working in Dharavi, Mumbai
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Paintings in Dharavi
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Paintings in Dharavi

These murals have added a burst of colours to the locality and depict scenes from the everyday life of the local population. Thus art here also helps the locals relate better. This shows how innovative placemaking is helping is adding value to the mundane lives of the slum.

2. Freedom Park, Bengaluru

This defunct prison complex in Bengaluru was converted into a beautiful public park. This is an example of placemaking wherein a defunct part of the space is put into public use. The old cells and the enclosures have been converted into a sightseeing location with the park. Moreover, sculptures of freedom fighters who were poisoned then, are placed into the park and the revamped prison complex. This is not only an example where defunct spaces are given an artistic touch but also an instance where sculptures are used as art forms to inculcate the stories of the past.

Defunct prisons being restored
Defunct prisons being revamped as a part of the freedom park
800px Sculptures at Freedom Park Diham
Sculptures used to depict the past

Creative placemaking projects enhance and improve the surroundings irrespective of the locations. Apart from the above examples, there are a lot many small scales and large scale projects all over the world. Let us look at some of the creative placemaking projects on a global level:

1. Pā Rongorongo – Auckland, New Zealand

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Interactive Kiosk that enables visitors to customise their experience

2.Umbrella Sky Project – Águeda, Portugal

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Umbrella sky installation
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