Diversity: 8 lessons to promote it in public spaces

Image credit: Project for Public Spaces

Image credit: Project for Public Spaces

“The following lessons represent the findings of a major PPS (Project for Public Spaces) research initiative, ‘Placemaking in a Pluralistic World: Using Public Spaces to Encourage and Celebrate Social Diversity’ and can be used as practical steps for civic institutions as they begin thinking about engaging a wide range of cultural and socioeconomic groups through their public spaces and programming.

– LESSON 1: Diverse social interaction is a goal of Placemaking, but so is creating safe spaces where groups can celebrate and seek out their cultural peers. Although some people argue that a “melting pot” is the highest form of multiculturalism, others maintain that fostering “safe” spaces where particular communities can come together and celebrate their unique culture is equally important in achieving diversity.

– LESSON 2: People must be represented through familiar cultural symbols in public spaces. When people do not see their values and preferences reflected in a place, they feel unwelcome. (…) No community group’s history should be erased from the physical and cultural reality of a public space.

– LESSON 3: Extensive and ongoing community participation is critical to the success of a multicultural place.  Community-based planning is one method for tackling issues of underrepresentation of subcultural groups. (…) The potential for the development of social capital through this process should not be underestimated.

– LESSON 4: Discrimination is real, and needs to be tackled by public space managers. Creating a positive, welcoming space through design and programming should be a top priority of planners.

– LESSON 5: Integrate many different types of uses–as well as elements that bring people together–into plans and designs. The most meaningful public space plans and programs strike a balance between official and vernacular uses, incorporating many different kinds of activities while simultaneously remaining flexible enough to accommodate values and preferences of different cultural groupings as they evolve over time.

– LESSON 6: Locate public spaces in areas where they can serve multiple communities. Markets, playgrounds, and parks on sites where they will border different communities is a proven way to increase the social diversity of public places.

– LESSON 7: Focus on neighborhoods. As a unit of planning, the neighborhood is the most important in terms of promoting social diversity and increasing social capital.

– LESSON 8: Program public spaces with educational and cultural activities that celebrate diverse cultures. Programs that offer educational experiences related to the history or the environment of a particular place have been shown to be effective in bringing people together.”

By Courtney Knapp on Project for Public Spaces.

(+info: Project for Public Spaces)

(Header image via Project for Public Spaces)