Placemaking has moved on to PFPP

Opener: One of the things that I and the rest of the P-THREE team get quizzed about with surprising regularity is placemaking. I know: just mentioning the word sets eyes rolling. But bear with me, as the core concern behind these enquiries is a really important one. Namely, what makes some places work, when others plainly don’t?

In theory placemaking should help us create the former and avoid the latter. Yet the term has always lacked a precise definition and these days is often used as shorthand for making minor and/or cosmetic physical alterations rather than embarking on wide-ranging strategic development.

So, I’m delighted by the way our friends at innovative brand and design consultancy dn&co have, in the last couple of years, effectively moved conversations about placemaking to the next level, with their popular notion of Place Purpose. While I won’t go into their methodology here, I applaud their success in creating a more precise term that centres on identifying the key purposes that are both relevant and in demand (as well as commercially viable) in any given location.

To me this is an eminently sensible viewpoint. But what interests me most (and what I suggest we should all find compelling) is what drives the Purpose element. I believe this has to be about people (a view that is central to P-THREE’s own philosophy). For any Place we need to ask: who is here already, who will come here and, in both cases, what do they want from that locality. Only then can we determine how that Place can become more rewarding for those who use it, which in turn will indicate how optimum property values can be achieved.

This people-focussed place purpose (PFPP) approach to placemaking is hardly radical, so it’s all the more surprising that outstanding examples are harder to find than one might expect. I’ve highlighted a few below, but I’m pleased to say I think there will be more in future.

I find it hugely encouraging that whenever I’m asked about placemaking, whether by an occupier or public/private sector landowner, and take the time to explain the benefits of PFPP, I’m invariably rewarded by appreciative nods rather than eye rolls.


Place: Chiswick Business Park, London
Overview: 33 acres in West London half way between Paddington and Heathrow
What we like about it: Now celebrating its twentieth anniversary, this pioneer scheme has never wavered from its #enjoy-work philosophy

Place: Knowledge Quarter, London
Overview: Centred on Bloomsbury, but including the phenomenal success story that is Kings Cross
What we like about it: Encompassing over 100 organisations within a one-mile radius, the sheer diversity and ambition here is awe-inspiring

Place: Industry City, New York
Overview: 35 acres of redeveloped industrial land on Brooklyn’s waterfront
What we like about it: For over a decade this has been a creative campus in the true sense of the phrase
Placemaking has moved on to PFPP

Article by Justin Taylor, Co-founder of P-THREE