UNStudio, a full-service architecture design network in three locations, posted a recent report regarding community. The work looks to explore the future of community building, and placemaking in a post-pandemic urban environment. According to UNStudio for urban planning and architecture, both community building and placemaking have become the most important themes.
“Prior to the Covid19 pandemic, facilitating the creation of communities related mainly to the workplace and the shared (living) economy, and was principally focused on co-creation, innovation and productivity.”
After the pandemic, events pointed out the human need of connecting on a broader scale and as an essential part of human health.
Let’s review some of the highlights of the report:
COMMUNITY BUILDING: A matter of survival
Human beings have always shown and experienced an emotional need of connection, interpersonal relationships and being part of a group. The human species is exceptionally a social species. Becoming socially connected has been essential to the survival of human experience.
Tamas David-Barrett, researcher at the University of Oxford explains: “ We learn from society: what to eat, where to find food, we process food in a very social way, we share it and receive a share from others. We live in shelters, houses that we build together with others. We raise our young together, we teach them our technologies together. We defend our families against predators, and sometimes more importantly from other human groups in a very social, communal way. In short, humans are dependent on society in almost every aspect of their lives.”
The 'New Science of Cities' - Clicks or bricks?
It is extremely important to create urban planning policies that understand “the human and economic value of community building”. This will allow the building of more polyfunctional neighbourhoods with sufficient public space, local social connectivity, social amenities and a balanced use of the space for (tourism, housing and others). The biggest learning after the pandemic is that the ‘proximity factor’ is essential to mental health, “even though we have recently discovered the convenience of digital meetings and the relative ease at which many knowledge workers could abandon the office and shift to working from home”.
“Research lately confirmed the importance of community building to the success of our urban centres. Creativity and prosperity of many cities is now understood as a dynamic interaction between networks of proximity and casual encounters that take place in public and semi-public spaces (‘third spaces’)”.
Placemaking strategies have a very important role in the creation of community “as they facilitate creative use patterns by intertwining the physical, cultural and social identities that define a place and support its continuous evolution”.
To understand better, placemaking is the process of creating quality spaces, places that can create an emotional attachment and “that thrive when users have a range of reasons to be (and stay) there”. For architects and urban designers, placemaking is about the creation of resilient, accessible, dynamic and inclusive spaces for the long-term.
“In placemaking, urban development is understood to draw its main strength from how it enhances its surroundings and community knowledge is embraced as an essential resource from the get go. In essence, a successful placemaking strategy ensures that urban areas feel like real communities, rather than isolated - and isolating - concrete jungles”.
At MKThink we are also working on projects that involve urban design and planning through a process of equity and community integration. We run community-based workshops where we prototype designs and/or play games that elicit creative ideas from people young and old. We believe that cities should uplift us all, and we love working on projects that bring that dream a bit closer to reality.