Environment & Urbanization

World leading environmental and urban studies journal

Recoded City: Co-creating Urban Futures

Thomas Ermacora, Lucy Bullivant




Recoded City: Co-creating Urban Futures is a visionary book, which documents past and current experiences of participatory placemaking in order to demonstrate future possibilities. It is fuelled by the belief that participatory placemaking (also called “recoding”) is vital to the sustainability and liveability of our cities, and stems from Thomas Ermacora and Lucy Bullivant’s Recoded City Project, which started in 2010. With a focus on inspirational and exemplary ideas that have successfully yielded social and economic development, Recoded City examines alternative, hybrid and complementary practices, which engage citizens in the co-creation of contexts they both live and can see a future in (page 9). By doing so this book presents a new discourse about the relationship between city dwellers and socially sustainable urban design and planning (page 10). Revealing the potential and value of participatory placemaking processes, Recoded City is relevant reading for the plethora of actors who influence city making as well as academics who study it.

With a novel structure, this book has three distinct parts. Following the Introduction, the first part comprises seven chapters. These chapters take the reader on a journey through history, starting with the rise of bottom-up placemaking (Chapter 1), through the emergence of Creative Commons, wiki culture and open society (Chapter 2), to the age of acceleration and democratization of technology, which has significantly influenced participatory learning (Chapter 3). It further looks at the reframing of placemaking by considering participatory institutions, hybrid forms and the open city, and the role of digital tools and art in placemaking (Chapter 4). It also gives a detailed description of recoding as a concept and method (Chapter 5). Finally, the authors discuss transparency of inequality and emerging new paradigms in relation to placemaking (Chapter 6), and advocate reinventing urban design and placemaking practices to redress urbanization challenges (Chapter 7). According to the authors, the vision of recoding and participatory placemaking – in other words bottom-up and DIY urban design strategies – “regards building capacity for resilience, social equality and liveability” (page 10).

The second part of Recoded City is made up of 43 stories from the UK and Europe, the USA, South America, Africa, India and the Far East. These narratives present experiences of participatory placemaking in various forms and from formal and informal contexts. They also vary in levels of engagement, replicability, design, scale and impact. Yet these stories all explore ways to regenerate, develop or repair places using more dynamic and user-centred urban design approaches (page 107). And thus, they illustrate both the experience of participatory placemaking in the 21st century and its potential for the future.

Finally, the third part of the book is given to six essays by individual authors who evaluate participatory placemaking in relation to a variety of topical themes, including citizen forestry, locally organized projects in informal settlements, the role of architects within society, and cities for people.


Book note prepared by Hannah Keren Lee

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