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Putting the pulse in places 18/07/2013

What takes place inside and between the buildings in which we live and work can either greatly encourage social connection or contribute to a sense of loneliness. This highlighted the importance of placemaking and the role of place activations in the development of Cockburn Central Town Centre

We tend to think of cities as collections of buildings and roads, but they are first and foremost collections of people. Successful cities are cities that not only meet our material human needs, but promote the social connectedness and relationships that are critical to our wellbeing.(1)

The concept of planning an urban community based around what people want is fast becoming a popular strategy implemented by planners, designers and architects across the globe, and is at the very core of the placemaking philosophy.

Placemaking is a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces. It involves listening to community wants and needs to create a shared and accepted vision. Placemaking is hinged on the belief that to make a great city, it’s important to create a place with its own unique identity and with a strong sense of community, shaped and driven by the people.

According to Geoff Mulgan, Director of The Young Foundation (a British-based organisation dedicated to making positive social change), cities built without taking social needs into consideration can lead to isolated individuals and communities. (2)

What takes place inside and between the buildings in which we live and work can either greatly encourage social connection or contribute to a sense of loneliness. This highlights the importance of placemaking and the role of place activations.

An example of this concept in Western Australia is the development of Cockburn Central Town Centre, located approximately 23 kilometres from Perth CBD. It is one of the first major Activity Centres to be established under the State Government’s Directions 2031 and Beyond strategy, which is a plan to minimise urban sprawl and cater for the State’s rapid population growth.

We are working with the City of Cockburn to implement a placemaking strategy to ensure Cockburn Central Town Centre becomes an important social and economic hub of Perth’s growing southern corridor.

Officially opened in January this year, the Town Square at Cockburn Central Town Centre is still in its infancy, but already has an ongoing program of activations. It has hosted community food stalls and entertainment, an outdoor movie night, music concerts and regular lunchtime fitness classes, all with a high level of community participation.

Placemaking at Cockburn Central Town Centre was embedded in the earliest stages of planning so we could deliver a community where people want to live, work and play. At the very beginning, we researched the local area and explored factors like local demographics and the cultural significance of the land. Ultimately, we listened to locals’ wants and needs.

The design process for Cockburn Central Town Centre began around seven years ago. It was always intended to be flexible and serve the evolving needs of the community.

We are now seeing some strong benefits of the design with a permanent ping pong table, sculptural seating, water playground, pop-up Mooba Café and grassed recreation spaces. 

These design elements were strategically planned to promote social interaction and provide places for the community to gather. This combined with the ongoing program of activities and events in the Town Centre is critical to building community identity, involvement and ownership of the Town Centre.

Placemaking and place activation are ongoing processes and we are committed to responding to the changing needs and wants of the Cockburn Central community to ensure the Town Centre continues to thrive and be a great place where people want to be.

We are not in it alone. Together with the City of Cockburn, Australand, Georgi Group, Department of Housing and the Public Transport Authority, we are working to commission additional place activations at Cockburn Central Town Centre in the coming months to benefit the community.

You can keep up-to-speed with our work at Cockburn Central Town Centre by visiting the website or liking our Facebook page.

(1) Cities for people, The Grattan Institute, 2013
(2) The Social life of cities transcript, Geoff Mulgan, November 2010

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