PLACEMAKER: Research Programme: Questions?

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by Paul Carder @paulcarder &

This post relates to the open LinkedIn Group of the same name:

PLACEMAKER is our next research programme, and we would like to get you involved. It comprises the kind of exploratory research, across multiple-disciplines, which we love – and upon which most of you will have a view! It is also related to my PhD, which officially started on 1st April at UWE Bristol, and as you know will be a long process (hopefully around four years). So, personally, I also very much welcome all your feedback – now, and into the future…

For now, I just want to put these questions out there, for you to comment upon, and add to:

  1. What is the relevance of PLACE to an organisation? Or to a part of an organisation, in a specific place?
  2. Location is one key aspect, but what are the characteristics of PLACE at different levels – region, city, sector, street, building?
  3. An organisation, any occupier of PLACE, is the demand-side of the ‘economics of place’ – what are those demand factors?
  4. Users (employees, contractors, consultants, visitors) form part of the ‘demand’ profile – what level of user engagement occurs?
  5. How does the supply-side of the ‘economics of place’ position itself to deliver to this demand profile?
  6. How do regions, cities, and sectors of cities, impact on and relate to demand from organisations and their workforce?
  7. How does the economics of agglomeration, and the competitive advantage of cities, relate to PLACE?
  8. What, and who, is a PLACEMAKER? City Mayors, property owners/developers, hub operators, and occupiers?
  9. How do they work, and interact, for mutual economic advantage?
  10. What will the future PLACE look like, for organisations and their knowledge-workers? Hooks to PLACES? Or free-roaming?

There are many more questions that we could ask – but what are the key questions? I look forward to your comments! Thank you in advance, Paul.

  1. Anna Boman says

    Hi Paul,
    Long time 🙂 & big congrats to your doctoral project! Sounds very interesting 🙂
    Saw above and thought to give some feedback to the Q´s you put forward:

    1. I think a geographic and physical place gives something concrete to relate to and identify with; it connects to a part of the world and the culture that are common to the place; it gives a mental picture of something you belong to, that connects YOU to that specific entity that resides there….it makes the organisation somehow “real”.

    2. Location: the locations is relevant for all above mentioned reasons but also bring in aspects and factors around (I think) status, historic values, subculture and valueas around groups residing in that area. Location can be very important as a connector and representative for your company brand…

    3. As a consumer of sorts, I think, if I understood the question right. The demands…..either you buy in to the order and prerequisites given or you put forward demands for change which can be a part of a image turnover for an area (prev heavy industri turns high-end office site etc). As a consumer you can be a part of a powerful thing…

    4. User engagement and demands: the possibility to put forward demands I think has greatly to do with management style and corporate culture; are you simply allowed to put forward demands, is it at all suitable, is it considered relevant etc?! If competent employees or contractors are hard to come by the possibilities to air your demands are good and can be less so if the contrary exist…In general though, in an allowing corporate environment, I think listening to demands, from all interested parties, and discuss what demands are reasonable to create a good work environment that is representative and practical for the organisational culture, values, staff and collaborators is the best. Place is then about location, ergonomics, aestetics, room, money, image and brand without any particular order.

    5. Supply: I would say more often than not “supply” is stuck between a rock and a hard place. “Supply” is a service that all interested parties want but it is very common that the talk on whats wanted, wished for and most of all what is consedered reasonable is dificult to coordinate and have an aggregated and agreed decision on. I think Supply has that coordinating and after that famous decision, an executive role in making things happen (& follow-up)…very interesting, very demanding and when a success very rewarding.

    6. Again very specific and different from place to place. In Sweden it has to do with government and municipal support and interest. Due to the latter things can differ a lot even if places are very close but on differents sides of the municipal border (read politics and philosophy). My experience is that law (on ex work environment) is off course always residing but then localy more on a political work force and taxlevel… many are unemployed, what type of turnaround does the local companies bring in, what kind of infrastructure and housing are available to make regions more attractive for business and workforce etc. In Sweden rural (farm and wood areas) areas with lower density in population are discussed (to stimulate) quite a lot together with unemployment rates for areas with higher population densities….crime and health issues come up etc. But as for “PLACE” I think regions want to be finacially successful and perhaps beautiful (either naturally with lakes, forrests etc or by man through citites, architecture etc) to help tourism as a financial help. I.E I think Place is relevant to help finance the region to simply be able to go on and forward….perhaps a bit crass and simplified 😉

    7. See above: regions want to be attractive to be competitive. How they make their place more attractive differ due to regional geographic, financial, aestetic prerequisities together with historical heritage and political values and ambitions for the future.

    8. A PLACEMAKER: most importantly I think is the fact that alone is not strong I think there must be a network of placemakers to make the places work :). The placemakers that creates the foundation, the atmosphere, the values and the air in which the physical place developes. The placemakers that designs, builds and arrange the physical place andall the placemakers that inhabits the place, who developes, fills and make the place real and inhabited. I think there is different placemaker-roles.

    9. Big questions you have there :). As shortly described above I think one can say that there are different levels of placemaking, or different spheres of placemaking, depending on how your view on organising the world around us look like. Like so many before us have noted the art of placemaking (if one could put it that way) can only be explained and work with through a series of, a vivid mix of, the sciences man has identified though history: architecture, geography, marketing, behavoiur and psychology, ingeneering, art, hospitality, finance, planning and management ect etc. I think one would have to go from large contexts and break it down and then see if it can be verified back up again……..Its a very interesting but a question much to difficult to put forward in thisformat I think :).

    10. I think most people feel safe as part of a context. I also think people are more than just mind…we have other physical senses and a body, that has to be in use to make us feel in balance and be healthy. To have said this I hope that technology can free us of spacial confinement that hinders us and enable and improve communication but still I do think that the majority of us like “our tribe”, our place in the world to benotjust cultural or behavioural but also somehow physical. I think being able to recognise oneself (smells, views, room etc) gives us the ability to feel safe and relax which i think we need to feel well. To constantly be presented to new choices, new contexts, new habits and new people put stresses on the mind that I don´t think we are really fit to handle in the long run.
    I also wonder about us working less blue-collar and more white-collar, making us comuting longer and more because the work that is close doesn´t always fit or are considered well enough paid. I wonder if larger companies can continue to aggregate to larger sites (to save money) considering comuting and the lack of time many of us are experiensing. I wonder if artisan knowledge and rural areas can continue to survive if we continue to only work in large city sites with only …..The future will surely contain both giving people choices to do what works for them. I do think that regional talks will be interesting too to continue to save traditions, to save regional differencies etc. A big question again…..

    A short try to dab into what you are interested in……will be interesting to follow your work!

    My very best

  2. Barry Lynch says

    I have a portion of a strategic facilities plan that covers “Place.” In this case it involves whether a company should relocate the headquarter. from a particular neighborhood in Austin, Texas USA.

    1. relevance of place to an organization – if the HQ is not in a safe area it will impact employee recruitment and retention.

    2. See sample plan for analysis of local and area concerns

    3. Economics of place – in Austin Texas drive time and safety

    4. User Demand profile – user engagement – in the US today, if you have a job, you should be thankful. No employees “push” for anything in any companies other than teachers and government employees and union employees.

    5. Supply Side – when this study was done, the construction market was getting ready to “flip: that is change from a buyers market to a sellers market. This means prices will rise as the available inventory of sites and space shrinks. The great recession formed a prolonged “buyers market” where few buyers risked capital investments. In some places, that is starting to change.

    6. The local region’s growth and development has to be factored into demand. If the location is an extraordinary commute, people will look elsewhere for work. We plotted all employee residences and analyzed commute time.

    7. If you are in one place and not intending to move your HQ, then there is no issue of competition with another place.

    8. Placemakers in Austin Texas are distinct neighborhoods.

    9. Neighborhoods interact through the real estate market and the city planning process. people move away from areas that are becoming dangerous and move to safe areas. If you don’t have any money, you live in an unsafe place by default, with the exception of University of Texas Students living around campus. The residents of the area in which the corporate HQ was located wanted more police patrols and a police substation. The neighborhood on the other side of Highway 290 wanted more parks and bike paths. A difference of a few feet and a barrier makes a tremendous difference. Also, the neighborhood in which the HQ is located was built in the early 1900’s by the residents, who built the houses themselves. They are now 70-100 years old and many are literally falling down – they were built with no foundations etc. and don’t meet code. they are not desirable places in which to live and command rock bottom prices to purchase or rent. You only live there if there is no place left to live other than your car.

    10. Future place for organization and knowledge workers – will not be free roaming. Average age in the organization is probably around 50 with 20+ years of experience. No possibility of free roaming. In a job where you (me) have to go out and fill a client’s needs, you have a “pink shingles” moment. If the client wants Pink Shingles, you give them Pink Shingles. In the US, the entire commercial office system is build upon a set of assumptions. One of those assumptions is 250 +/-sq. ft. per person in an office building. These are often built into zoning ordinances. As a planner, if you cram more people in a building, then there will not be enough parking. If you are not in a downtown location, then you are in a an “office park” with prescribed parking for each building. There is one company in Austin. – I can’t tell you the name, but their logo is a piece of fruit – They have successfully jammed more people into their space, which is a great space planning victory. However the interior designers failed to consider parking for the “extra” occupiers. These people started parking in the parking lots of neighboring buildings. These buildings were forced to install gates and card readers at their parking lots. Of course, every morning, people forget their cards, causing security to have to staff for someone to let the card-losers in the parking lot. The system in suburban US is stacked against higher density for seated population. Those who seek higher densities should locate downtown.

    Let me know if you want to see a copy of the study.

  3. Bipin Aswani says

    Paul, I’m very fascinated and intrigued with questions you have put forth to this forum and I’d like to suggest inclusion of key ingredient to this recipe, PEOPLE.

    Often, PEOPLE and not Users are centre of design element but forgotten in look & feel, health, safety, security and emotionally disconnected. How do we connect dots to the PEOPLE and make the PLACE conducive environment and connect with PEOPLE emotionally.

    I’ll share my responses to your questions, subsequently.

  4. paul says

    Anna, Barry, Bipin,
    Thankyou so much for your detailed responses – this is all very useful!
    I now need to read thoroughly, with also the comments on LinkedIn, at:

    And respond in my next blog / LinkedIn discussion….

    This will build up over time, into the research outline for Phase 1 of ‘PLACEMAKER’

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