Placemaking and vibrancy

By Jun Sochi / Cushman & Wakefield | July 17, 2018 7:00 AM SGT
In Singapore, we are seeing more examples and evidence of how public spaces and even common spaces in buildings and workplaces have been successfully transformed by adhering to basic principles of placemaking. These include community engagement, stakeholder input and curated programming. Now, commercial real-estate players recognise the importance and value of placemaking as the emphasis shifts from the physical design to user wellness and experience of a space. Placemaking is happening at the city, district, building and workplace level. Successful placemaking generates vibrancy and builds a sense of community that leads to engagement, creativity, well-being and collaboration.

Placemaking at different levels

Events at the Urban Park include the Tokyo Summer Park, which was held from June 27 to 30 by Japan Rail Café, one of the tenants at GuocoLand’s Tanjong Pagar Centre integrated development
At the city level, URA is engaging communities, businesses and other public agencies to champion the activation and vibrancy of public spaces through various programmes such as Car-Free Sundays, Streets for People, Weekend Street Closures, and Our Favourite Place. These placemaking programmes enliven public spaces for the public’s enjoyment and often bring economic as well as social, health and environmental benefits. At the district level, developments such as one-north, with JTC Corp as the master planner and developer; and GuocoLand’s Tanjong Pagar Centre; are examples where there is a good mix of work, live, play and learn components, which are vital for building a vibrant community.
At Tanjong Pagar Centre, the 150,000 sq ft landscaped Urban Park features a lawn, rooftop gardens and a wide, open space sheltered by a glass canopy for recreational and lifestyle events. A focal point of the park is the City Room, a vibrant public space for special events and outdoor performances that offers a variety of F&B options.
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Statutory board JTC Corp had the foresight years ago to form a team to focus on placemaking within onenorth: The objective was to activate its public spaces to foster a vibrant community that leverages the worldclass knowledge-based enterprises located there. JTC creatively trialled and tested placemaking ideas and applied placemaking principles that included engaging stakeholders — in this case, tenants — and creative programming to turn the spaces in between buildings into “places”.
Tenant feedback provided critical information on how to approach programming, which has led to JTC’s regular “Fantastic Friday” events and ad hoc initiatives such as science fairs, talent contests, movie nights and fun runs. A bicycle race is even held during a “car-free Sunday” at one-north.
The atrium of Fusionopolis in one-north (Credit: JTC Corp)

Factors that drive placemaking

Now, other real-estate players are catching on. The successful principles of placemaking at the urban and district development level are being applied at the building and workplace level as well. Flexible working and mobility, enabled by technology, has disrupted the way businesses operate as well as attract and retain talent. This coincides with the tidal rise of the millennial workforce — those born in the 1980s to mid-1990s — and their apparent desire to work and connect on the go using various channels such as email, mobile and video conferencing. The line between work and play is blurring — the millennial worker wants to be able to transition seamlessly between work and play at various times of the day.
Placemakers have responded by designing, configuring and programming spaces that promote a unique experience of work, vibrancy and a sense of community. This probably accounts for the rising popularity of co-working as it is the logical response to the needs of the millennial workforce.
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The millennial worker wants to be able to work in an environment that creates opportunities for collaboration and generation of ideas. Witness the success of incubator spaces such as JTC LaunchPad (formerly known as Block 71), which nurtured start-ups such as Carousell. Entrepreneurs in all types of industries are attracted to LaunchPad for its collaborative and open environment.
Placemaking is gaining in popularity at a time where there is a heightened awareness that the human element and user experience are important components to vibrant public spaces and healthy workplaces. Developers, designers, planners and even those managing buildings and public spaces need to recognise that placemaking is important.
In the case of LaunchPad, placemaking principles are being applied to deliberately foster interactions and even chance encounters, the sharing of ideas and collaboration among start-ups, researchers and entrepreneurs, with the objective of creating a work environment that drives innovation and creativity.
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The millennial worker wants to be able to work in an environment that creates opportunities for collaboration and generation of ideas (Credit: EdgeProp Singapore)

Sharing economy transforming businesses

The sharing economy will drastically transform the way business is conducted everywhere. The changes are primarily driven by the same generation of millennials who instinctively work and play in a more open and collaborative culture. Increasingly, the marketplace is being dominated by a generation of consumers who are willing to rent or borrow rather than buy or own. Common physical spaces and the community experiences are therefore perfectly natural and logical in a sharing economy.
Office and retail landlords are increasingly pressured to provide a more interactive, diverse and bespoke experience within a space. It is no surprise that developers and placemakers put a premium on mixed-use sites that yield tremendous potential for an integrated experience of working, living and playing in one single locale.
Placemaking is an ongoing effort that requires programming, feedback and adaptation. After all, if places can be attractive and vibrant and also yield real commercial and economic benefits for businesses, developers and owners, it is increasingly clear that placemaking should be an integral part of any real-estate enhancement strategy.
Jun Sochi is managing director, C&W Services Singapore, the facilities and engineering arm of Cushman & Wakefield (Credit: C&W)