Place-making or place-keeping?
BEFS Vice-Chair, Professor Ian Baxter, muses over the meaning of ‘place-keeping’ for the historic environment sector.
In tackling my backlog of grey literature reading, a report re-emerged in my files on an EU-funded project which ran as part of the 2007-2013 North Sea Region Programme. The project, entitled “Making Places Profitable – Public and Private Open Spaces”, shortened to MP4 focused on exploration of approaches for planning and designing, maintaining and using public places in the long-term. It set out to demonstrate how open space improvements offer positive socio-economic benefits, and how the benefits offered to key communities can be maintained in the long run. It also illustrated support for greater interaction between all those involved in the open space management process. The original project website is no longer active (and I’d advise anyone not to click the link in the project report as the project domain has been re-used for something else entirely!) – but it can be found archived here. Broader research and case studies were also published in an academic text. (I also hadn’t realised that a Heriot-Watt colleague was involved in the study, and I will now track him down for a conversation!).
The key phrase used within the project which has stuck in my mind over the past few days, is ‘place-keeping’, mainly because I haven’t consciously heard it being used in the historic environment milieu which I am embedded in (rather than the open space management context where it originated). That we haven’t picked up on the term ‘place-keeping’ surprises me therefore – as the ethos of balancing preservation and managing change which is at the heart of heritage management seems to be neatly captured in it, particularly where community and stakeholder engagement is at the fore, and especially where it is trying to encourage greater sense of ‘ownership’. Place-keeping, however perhaps better captures aspects of our discussions in heritage management which have co-opted ‘place-making’ as a term to use somewhat uncomfortably at times, where heritage has been hard-wired to regeneration and as an instrumental tool for development. Place-keeping also has an implicit sense of history within the term, whilst place-making just doesn’t – to me it suggests a constant act of development. Perhaps I have missed it entirely, but I think I shall now be slipping place-keeping into meetings and discussions and see where it finds new traction – or gets challenged forcing me to consider this all a little more.