You know those cities whose cool factor just eludes you? The ultra hip downtown with its farm fresh markets, organic raw vegan restaurants and stores with such original and kitsch trinkets you just can't get enough of? Ever scratch your head and wonder why these places are some damn cute? This, my friends, is what planners strive for. We call it placemaking. How to create that special ambiance that keeps 'em coming back for more? Here are some examples. Maybe you'll recognize a few (Miami).
The Farmer's Market, Great Barrington
You might recognize this town's name from last summer's blog. We go every summer. They've got real style when it comes to their weekend farmer's market. Striped linens, French enamel display pans, chalkboard and understated black and white sign with a cool font.
Yes, here it's as much about the display design as it is about the food. Those burlap table cloths and wooden produce boxes and baskets scream freshly picked! Made me feel like I was at the farm. That's my dad's dog, Sammie, in the foreground. No farmer's market is complete without the requisite cute dog.
But I love this taco stand--and not just the two cuties standing in front of it! Check out the taco sign hanging above the canopy. So cool.
The Farmacy, West 44th Street, New York
What I like about this market is how unexpected it is. A vacant lot, nestled between two buildings is a perfect spot for a farm stand. Again, the appeal of the display lured me in. Clever name- Farmacy--and a screen print of a picket fence, watermelons, baskets and crates. How to create the feeling of a farm in the middle of Manhattan.
Remarkable when you see it from this angle. A bit of magic.
The Farmer's Market, NYC
Further down the street I saw this market. Not the same kind of magic as the Farmacy, but still quite beautiful because of the vivid colored flowers in the mason jars and the bright colors of the vegetables in contrast to the concrete sidewalk.
Miami may not have the same kind of ultra swank farmer's market in Miami yet, but we have our graffiti art which, in my opinion, is just as relevant and creative. Why? Because Miami took a common art form--grafitti-- and made it its own. Last week I saw a tour bus in Wynwood. People pay money to see this stuff.
And another thing, it's replicated all over the city. It's become our brand of sorts.
The Wow Factor
Times Square, New York
There's nothing subtle about Times Square. Big, flashy billboards with flashing lights and messages of youth, beauty and entertainment. This is placemaking at its finest. Created from nothing and universally understood as the center of New York entertainment.
Brickell City Center, Miami
The wow factor here is more refined and sophisticated. Brickell City Center is a spectacular construct of high end shopping in a sublime expression of architecture. Simply said this place is gorgeous.
The views, the building material and the attention to detail is so remarkable. The ambiance here is deliberate and created from new construction. But, like the farmer's markets and the graffiti art, Brickell City Center's architecture is innovative, bold and very cool. A ten.
Hudson River Park, New York
This 4-mile park runs along the western edge of Manhattan and along the Hudson River. It has a lot of different playgrounds and parks, a putting green and a paddle board center. But I love this peaceful seating area. It's the space in between the bigger parks, but, to me, it's just as enchanting. I think it's the simplicity of the materials--gray wooden planks, bright blue plastic chairs and green trees. The separation of the space with a stepped platform makes the space feel cozy and private. Imagine, privacy outdoors in Manhattan!
But the heart of this park is the linear bike path which is separated from traffic with a wide sidewalk and metal fence and softened with some terrific greenery. Amateurs and professionals are all welcome.
And no waterfront park is complete without the floating bar barge. A nice place to catch the sunset after work. It's cool without being pretentious. I think we could definitely pull something like this off in Miami.
Building as Backdrop for your Big Idea, Great Barrington
This is an old bank building that was converted into a cheese shop of all things. This summer, on a Friday, the front patio (shown here) was used as market for fresh produce. They popped up two or three large foldable tables, covered them with burlap and boxes to display the most beautiful assortment of veggies complete with leafy tops and exposed roots. That's right I DID NOT get the photo that day. The point is, great places can happen anywhere and they can be temporary, like this farmer's market.
Little Havana, Miami
Last example. Little Havana is a special place which has evolved and modernized in a very cool way. It started with the Tower theatre and Domino Park.
Domino Park was extended to create this larger plaza. It's used for monthly friday neighborhood events- Viernes Culturales--which has become an institution. Ahh placemaking...
Even McDonalds caught onto the brand of Little Havana and Domino Park. Isn't this great?
Azucar Ice Cream
But here is the best example. From the old Cuban neighborhood came a fresh and inventive shop which, in my book, is just as incredible as the cute neighborhoods that started off this blog. Across from the Tower Theater, this small ice cream shop has become a local favorite. The psychedelic ice cream cone popping off the building is as amazing as the ice cream inside the shop.
There are lots more great examples of placemaking in Miami, but I wanted to end with this photo...a mural of Puerto Rican baseball player Roberto Clemente which says: "Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don't then you are wasting your time on earth." Places are special because people make them special.