Canadian Placemaking: Overview and Action

Cities for People

Year: 2016

This report represents an exploration of what placemakers in Canada need to work more effectively, the challenges they face, and actionable recommendations to strengthen and multiply their impact. It is meant to be a resource for those who want to learn more about the current state of placemaking and those who are passionate about driving sustainable change in their communities.

Download Canadian Placemaking

Across Canada, growing numbers of placemaking initiatives are changing the landscape while increasing citizen involvement in their communities. Placemaking is being adopted by many professions and municipal governments as a new way to create and support resilient, sustainable communities.

The placemaking process is being recognized for its ability to enable collaborative frameworks and the power to shift behaviour of citizens from being passive consumers of services, to actors, co-creators, and agents of change. Placemaking is an entry point to systems change and social innovation; “a shift in the way that a community makes decisions about policies, programs, and the allocation of its resources — and, ultimately, in the way it delivers services to its citizens. To undertake systems change, a community must build collaborative bridges among multiple agencies, community members, and other stakeholders”. (Comprehensive Community Initiatives Tool Kit)

Placemaking is emerging in Canada, through the efforts of passionate practitioners who are striving to create vibrant, sustainable communities. This emerging sector that is dedicated to supporting our communities, also requires support. Placemaking and placemakers require a support system in order to build capacity and better share resources, expertise and knowledge.

Placemaking is not a new concept, it began with the first human settlements, each symbolically marked to represent community. An icon, a totem, an Inuksuk, was a shared phenomenon and actualized the spirit of undertaking jointly. Today we also have parks, monuments, murals, sculptures and more – all in their way providing for the enhancement of our living spaces and elucidating our stories of place. “If place-making is a way of constructing a past, a venerable means of doing human history, it is also a way of constructing social traditions and, in the process, personal and social identities.” (Keith Basso, “Wisdom sits in Places”)

Placemaking returns to the origins of these early endeavours, enabling individuals to be active agents in their physical surroundings. Any discussion of placemaking must take into account that the original placemakers were Aboriginal people who did not see themselves as separate from their everyday life in their environment. Furthermore, we recognize the role of Aboriginal people as traditional stewards of the land upon which our cities and communities have been built.