‘Placemaking’ is a term that’s used across a wide range of industries, which is part of the reason it’s hard to get a read on what it actually means. A simple way to look at it is to compare it to something more familiar, like the concept of homemaking. In the same way that homemaking is the process of turning a house into a home, placemaking is the process of turning a space into a place.
It’s all about transforming previously un-optimised spaces into attractive destinations. It goes way beyond just considering function, facilitating the creation of places that are desirable, relevant, and welcoming.
Understanding what placemaking is, what it means to turn a space into a place, and how it applies to your business can be massively beneficial. That’s especially true in the office space sector, where creating a place that people want to spend their time is arguably more important than anything else.
In the purest sense, the definition of placemaking is:
A process through which places that people want to live, work, or explore are created.
It’s a process because it involves multiple steps. To create a place out of a space means considering design, location, infrastructure, logistics, service, and, above all, the needs of the people you’re creating the place for.
The term placemaking is used most in the public planning and redevelopment sector. Even if you’ve never heard of it before, you’ll have visited iconic sites that have been created through the placemaking process – like King’s Cross.
Despite the fact it’s most used in public redevelopment, though, the concept of placemaking is just as applicable to interior design, retail, higher education, and the office property sectors.
How exactly does placemaking apply to offices, and more specifically to the growing flexible workspace industry? It’s a critical part of the puzzle, in that it’s central to targeting your ideal occupiers by realising their needs and desires.
It has been criminally underused in the past, with traditional offices often barely qualifying as places at all and rather just providing a space for workers to inhabit. That’s changing though, with many modern coworking operators creating a new wave of office spaces with purpose and charm.
22 Bishopsgate, for example, is selling itself as a ‘vertical village’ that aims to become a ‘building you would want to work in’. While it’s currently still in development, when completed it will offer over 1.25 million square feet of flexible workspace, mixed in with amenities like London’s largest cycle park, a fitness studio, and even a nightclub.
You can even see the influence of placemaking in the private offices of some of the most exciting and successful companies in the world, including Google, who ensure that their offices are motivating and energising.
What placemaking entails
Placemaking is a fairly vague term, partly because it encompasses such a wide range of practices. In a nutshell though, Spaces to Places considers six main elements when placemaking in the coworking sector.
The location of your space – where it’s positioned geographically and how that relates to your target market – is hugely important. Transport links, parking spaces, local competition, and footfall will all influence your appeal.
The interior (and exterior, to a lesser extent) design of your place says a lot about your brand and has subtle effects on your occupiers’ experience. Layout is also important to consider, as it’s a core part of the physical customer journey, and therefore a large part of the customer experience.
People that you hire directly represent your brand, which makes them an important factor to consider as part of a placemaking process. How staff interact with occupiers will form a large part of the impression that the place leaves on your market.
Processes are central to your product, determining how it’s delivered to the occupier. By optimising your processes and brainstorming where automated solutions can solve problems, you can iron out any creases that might result in negative experiences and better meet occupier needs.
Referrals and word of mouth marketing is important in many markets, and no less so in the coworking sector. By building partnerships in your local community, you can integrate better with your surroundings and potentially even get referral business off the back of your efforts.
Finally, the way that you market your place is an important part of how people feel about it. Everything from the channel you use to the authenticity of your messaging will influence people’s first impression of your brand, which will eventually help form their opinion of your place.
Benefits of placemaking
So you know what placemaking is and what the process entails, but why would you go through all of that effort? What’s actually on offer from putting time into placemaking your coworking or flexible office space?
Lower churn rates
The most obvious, and most important benefit of placemaking is that you’ll create a place that people want to spend their time in. This is particularly important because people spend a large portion of their lives in the workplace.
How they feel when they work in your space is directly linked to how likely they are to continue to work there. With this in mind, it makes sense that building a strong and cohesive sense of place can reduce churn rate and give you more loyal custom.
Bolstered word of mouth marketing
Almost as a direct result of lower churn rates, placemaking can have knock-on effects on the likelihood that an occupier will tell their friend or colleague about you. Organic word of mouth marketing like this is invaluable, boosting your brand exposure and potentially contributing to future revenue.
Improved brand perception
Outside of the direct benefits that placemaking can have on your bottom line, there are indirect benefits that shouldn’t be ignored. One is that the better your place is, and the better it suits your market or location, the better you’ll be perceived from an outside perspective.
Creating a solid sense of place is a cross-channel activity, and presenting a cohesive brand image from the inside out can help to make a strong first impression on future customers.
Integration into community
Finally, by properly considering how your place fits into the local community you inhabit and putting in the effort to build connections with local businesses, you’ll reap the benefits of integration.
Those benefits are fairly intangible, and you can’t really predict how they’ll affect your business, but it’s safe to say that building partnerships locally can lead to unique opportunities that you would otherwise miss out on.
How to turn a space into a place
Hopefully you now understand what placemaking is, how it applies to the office sector, and what it can offer you, but how do you go about realising your wildest placemaking dreams?
There are small steps you can take on your own to start the transformation of your space into a place, from starting to build links in your local community to rethinking your internal processes to prioritise the customer. But the biggest wins come when you tackle the whole placemaking concept as a single project.
Spaces to Places offers placemaking services and consultancy for coworking and flexible operators who are keen to get ahead of the competition. We have a holistic approach to placemaking, and can see projects through from analysing the potential of new sites you’re looking at, all the way to putting the final touches to your customer journey map.
Book a free call with us and we can talk you through the details of our service to see how placemaking can help you.