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All About Gathering Places & Placemaking

The "gather and stare" places for camaraderie, and the commemorative and interstitial moments of life.
So let's talk all about gathering places, and their role in placemaking.

A gathering place is anywhere that people can congregate, to allow group interaction, whether for entertainment, informal recreation, debate, decision-making, worship, commerce, or simply, camaraderie in sharing a life’s moment – a graduation, recognition, retirement, a passing.   Also, in considering all about gathering places, such destinations as New York’s Central Park simply allow people to “gather and stare,” among other out-of-home activities.  That can be a sufficient purpose for a gathering place.

 

The term “gathering place” has become popular among developers and public sector entities, and their design consultants, in describing one of the great goals in creating and/or retrofitting places.  These places may be the most essential aspect of building communities of people. People enjoy being among other people, it is part of what defines us as human beings.  There is also an interesting relationship of such gathering to the lifetimes of those people that enjoy them.

 

Gathering locations are the places where many of our memories are created. We remember the parade we attended as a child. We remember the ice cream and fireworks we enjoyed with our own children at the same gathering place. We fondly recall the sports team celebration held in this same place.  On a holiday we recall the glory of strolling along a great street or boulevard, taking in another culture, shopping, and being in the moment.   Gathering places are a fascinating repository of the collective life’s experiences of a host community, the place of communal memory.

 

No matter how compelling in-home entertainment may be, consumers will always want those resonating moments with other people.   Some gathering locations are about the camaraderie, others about the special occasions (Times Square), still others are about the “gather and stare” promise.   The great places among all others deliver on that feeling of belonging, of discovery, of good times.   Perhaps the common factor is the memories that are made – whether the interstitial moments of our lives or those of great import.

 

As experiential designers and placemaking (place-making) consultants, StoneCreek Partners has collaborated in an array of public and private place enhancement and guest experience augmentation efforts.   These communal places are one kind of shared space where purposeful placemaking can yield great result.

 

 

All About Gathering Places

What are Gathering Places? They take many forms but we know them when we feel them; but gathering places can be explained

Requisite attributes for effective gathering sites are common areas that:

 

– are based on particular local guest “trip motivations.” That is there is a natural constituency that can be attracted to and accommodated;

 

– feature a compelling designed environment. There are now architects, landscape architects, sponsorship consultants, property developers, and city planners, each of which consider themselves to be “placemakers.” There is now a record of built gathering places, and those that have evolved over time, and from this, an array of well-studied best practices for such places. That fact is that gathering places to require a multi-disciplinary sensibility – places are at once about the site plan, the architecture, the edges, the activities, and so many other factors, that all combine and integrate for the experiential effect – the feeling one gets when in the moment, in the space;

 

– offer ample “things to do” – there are many beautiful places, but to work as a gathering site there must be sufficient ways to linger in the space, to keep people occupied in an enjoyable manner;

 

– feature structured and unstructured activities – people are attracted “to the commons” to see parades, listen to music, attend an event. But people also enjoy unstructured activities – strolling looking at shop windows, enjoy coffee and conversation with friends. Both structured and unstructured make for a successful gathering place;

 

– ensure safety – a gathering site must be safe, but also be perceived to be safe;

 

– are comfortable – gathering locations need to provide protection from wind, sun, cold, or heat, through proper shelter, convenient and clean restrooms;

 

– offer food and beverage – most adults choose to consume food and/or beverages when they head out-of-home in their leisure-time. A successful gathering place will typically provide some type of access to such refreshments;

 

– are desirable for lingering – perhaps lingering attractiveness is a byproduct of all of the above-referenced factors, but a gathering place must be a wonderful place to linger.

 

– encourage a return visit.

 

The process of creating successful gathering places, is part of a discipline that is known as “placemaking” (or place-making). A terrific gathering location is the physical product resulting from effective placemaking.

 

Gathering places can be both public and private. Public gathering places includes parks, airport terminals, main streets, historic districts, and town squares.

 

Privately-owned gathering destinations include stadiums and arenas, shopping malls, theme parks, and the like. Real estate and entertainment facility developers have become particularly interested in gathering places as essential components of their projects. Entertainment companies such as Universal Studios, Disney, and SONY, among others, have created specialized facilities steeped in gathering sensibilities – in particular, theme parks and urban entertainment centers.