Through City Repair, communities of volunteers have built over 300 sustainable works in Portland, making places that connect people to each other and their city. City Repair shows a way to reclaim and repopulate public space to help make cities sustainable in the long run.
Mark’s placemaking is a result of good parenting. I smile when I say that, but it’s true: his father, architect Richard Lakeman, founded the urban design division of Portland’s planning department and helped create Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square. His mother, too, concentrated on design and public space. Architecture professor Sandra Davis Lakeman is famous for her investigations of natural light and the Italian piazza.
American cities west of the Ohio River were planned by the Continental Congress’ National Land Ordinance of 1785, which organized most of America into a Roman colonial grid. As Americans we have the right to free assembly. But our gridded American cities have fewer public spaces than cities in any other developed country. We have the right to assemble but no place to do it; streets and intersections but no piazzas, plazas, or gathering spaces. In Portland, or Phoenix near where I live, the grid extends as far as you can see. But it’s about cars and separation – not places people can belong to.
In too many locales if you try to organize a community gathering place officials will point out, “That’s public space, no one can use that.” It happened at Lakeman’s first project. 300 projects later, placemaking has proven to be at the core of sustainability.
below: neighbors and community gather annually to repaint Sunnyside Piazza