Space making on agenda at library event

Arts & Entertainment Community

Pictou Lodge was packed on Saturday morning for Elena Madison’s keynote address at the 2016 Nova Scotia Libraries Association conference.

Madison is the vice-president at Project for Public Spaces and an American expert on place-making and her talk was held in partnership with the Library Boards Association of Nova Scotia.

Madison touched on her involvement in revitalizing the downtown area of Houston, Texas, space making projects in Florida and observations from a recent space-making project in Paris.

She said that spaces must reflect the community and for maximum appreciations should include seating, pointing out that a lovely fountain is nothing without a bench.

Space-making is a “specialized task” wherein “the community is the expert,” Madison said, and where function and use supersede pure design. She did note, however, that “great design is great design.”

Madison also stated that “triangulation is key,” as if a project focuses on making one area or place welcoming it will leave other places in their natural state.

A recurring message throughout Madison’s talk was that place-making cannot be done alone, rather it must involve the community as the aim is to create “community destinations”. Often these spaces, which might be open-function performance or gathering spaces will be near or on the premises of libraries and the most successful examples are those that “offer a front porch,” are welcoming and are flexible in terms of use, function and open hours.

“Clustering activities” around destinations, for example having yoga, buskers, dance, musical performances or stargazing all at the same location leads to “overlapping and changing uses” and creates “fluid connections between indoor and outdoor spaces”.

Madison also discussed the importance of gateways and entrances in space-making as they are both identifiable from a distance and key to creating a sense of entry.
She stated that “seasonal strategies” are also a key concept and should draw on and highlight the seasons and used the example of a public space serving as a skating surface in winter.

Madison is currently working on place-making projects in Detroit, Michigan; Richmond, Virginia; Houston, Texas; New York City and Stanford University.

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