Making a Place We Can All Call Home:

Wrestling with VUCA – Through Placemaking

As Wellbeing By Design

This is two in a series of 6 Thought Pieces by Ian Wight exploring his contribution to Urban Hub 20: Accelerating City Transformation in a VUCA World (curated by Marilyn Hamilton, published by Paul van Schaik, to be released April 2020)

But how to feel at home in this strange new sphere – and with this possibly unfamiliar ‘inter-subjective according’? Activate your place sensibility, your place-sensing (Rebecca Solnit maintains that sense of place is our sixth sense, an internal compass and map).

Place is something we make, individually or collectively. The setting might be our room, our home, our garden, our community, our country, our world. When the making is collective, as is the case with the most meaningful and meaning-filled placemaking, it represents essentially a form of inter-subjective according in the noosphere, in our collective consciousness. So, take your cue from place, in particular its making, and most especially as yourselves as agents – as the quintessential placemakers.

You can ground your action on the climate change challenge, and your wrestling with VUCA, in your very own place – and in your natural concern for that place to manifest wellbeing, in part by your very own design. In our increasingly urban world, with its global interconnections, the scale of place that most matters, where we can make the most difference together, is probably the city scale. Consider your city worthy of your love, a making like no other, that could be life-saving as well as life-affirming.

We are called to the challenge of making a place we can all call home – beginning in our city, with our fellow citizens – as convivants. Sustainability may have been our macro-mission for the past few decades, but now, more than ever, we have to cultivate conviviality on a par with sustainability. This gets to the heart of ‘living together’, living well together, in well-loved places, with fellow place-lovers – the convivants.

Drawing on an integral perspective place may be conceived as the integration of physicality, functionality, conviviality and spirituality. In the city context it is the convivants – the placemakers – who are the integrators. Cast yourself in this role, with this integral perspective. Place is where we – together – coordinate, collaborate, constellate and meshwork our capacities for the wellbeing of the city – and as a result for the wellbeing of our planet, Gaia. Our city is where we ‘zoom in’ from, and ‘zoom out’ from, our holonics@work.

Placemaking is, essentially, common-meaning-making – our inter-subjective according play-place. Placemaking is a human art and practice from time immemorial; it has been critical for our evolution as a species. Today it involves some conscious design of spaces for dialogue, for deliberation, on shared meanings (or agreements about disagreements), that can frame collective action in the public domain – that takes on our challenges. Place is where we discharge our agency in communion, in a form of poetry-making (there is a common ‘root’ to place, and poetry, and poetics).

So – with your fellow placemakers, conviviants all, tap into your poetic sensibility; consciously put yourself, your self, in the place – you are inside it, and it is inside you. As you ‘place your self’ take in the experience of your implacement. You are implicated in the making of the place – as a place-maker (not a place-taker), and as a conducer (not a consumer) of the place. Feel into the challenge of ‘making a place we can all call home’.