Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Does placemaking help democracy?

Aug. 29, 2014, 10 a.m., Posted by Andrew Sherry

Above: Study group members discuss ideas to take home from Copenhagen as a fly fisherman practices casting. Credit: Torbjörn Larsson/Knight Foundation.

Planning, designing and managing public spaces with human beings squarely at the center of the picture produces remarkably livable cities and economic growth. Does it also strengthen democracy by bringing people together to address shared issues?

Related Links

"Study tour gets street-level view of how Copenhagen reinvented itself" by Andrew Sherry on Aug. 25 in Knight Blog

It’s an important question for Knight Foundation, which supports informed and engaged communities because we believe they help democracy to thrive. Most city planners, architects and others involved in placemaking tend to speak primarily in practical terms, though: pedestrian-friendly streetscapes, grids of bike paths, programming in parks.

Riccardo Marini, a director of Gehl Architects, spoke for a full morning on the practicalities of placemaking projects to more than 30 people on a late August study tour to Copenhagen organized by 8-80 Cities and sponsored by Knight. But when pressed to say what was at the core of the work, he didn’t hesitate.

Artists-in-residence amplify creative energy of North Philly neighborhood

Aug. 29, 2014, 9 a.m., Posted by Lillian Dunn

Above: SPACES Episode 1: Designing Together from The Village.

The SPACES Artists-in-Residence program at The Village of Arts and Humanities in Philadelphia, a winner of the 2013 Knight Arts Challenge, offers a new spin on the artist residency model.

Instead of working in remote solitude, SPACES artists move into colorful row homes in the heart of North Philadelphia. More “residents” than “in residence,” the artists work alongside their new neighbors to amplify the gifts and stories of the community and creatively strengthen our neighborhood as a whole. 

SPACES began its first cycle on June 14, 2014, with two different residences. Renowned music producer King Britt is working with neighborhood musicians to record an album of their work and start a radio station amplifying the voice of North Philly. And the Philadelphia-based Amber Art + Design Collective is creating large-scale community meals in our art parks that feature remixed recipes by local cooks. Both projects have already blossomed in unexpected ways. 

'Knight Cities': A conversation with San Jose, Calif., Mayor Chuck Reed

Aug. 27, 2014, 10 a.m., Posted by Carol Coletta

As mayor of San Jose, Chuck Reed has confronted some of the thorniest issues facing cities: the need to renegotiate employee pensions, the tensions between wanting good urban planning and accommodating new corporate headquarters, the drying up of state funds, the need for cities such as San Jose to build strong brands.  

In this week’s “Knight Cities,” Mayor Reed talks frankly about these and other challenges, along with one of the innovative ways he is tapping new talent for City Hall.  He also gives voters advice on what to look for in a candidate running for mayor.  

My conversation with him is posted here.  

Join us for “Knight Cities,” and look for new content posted every Wednesday here. You can follow us on Twitter at #knightcities or @knightfdn. And if you have ideas for people you’d like to hear more from, please email me.

Carol Coletta is vice president of community and national initiatives at Knight Foundation.