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Beautiful placemaking in not so beautiful weather

We can find lessons in many great cities of how to make a public space attractive in spite of bad weather.


The image at left is the old city core of Stockholm, known as Gamla Stan, on a rather cold and rainy day recently. (It's not far from the Stockholm offices of IMCL director Michael Mehaffy and board member Peter Elmlund.) You might think it would be almost impossible to make an outdoor space attractive when the weather is bad. But the example shows the importance of strong colors, rich textures and shapes, and layers of space and protection, in creating places that remain inviting in spite of the weather.

This is of course doubly important in creating outdoor spaces that are inviting and safe during the COVID pandemic, as we have written about previously. Stockholm restaurants (like many others in the Nordic region) have gotten very good experience with making outdoor spaces comfortable ind inviting, including offering blankets and shelter. Like other parts of the world, they've also introduced innovations, like "parklets" with individual heaters.

Some people assume, wrongly, that one way to make a space more inviting in drab weather is to use bright colors. That actually doesn't work: the colors look dingy under the gray skies. Deep rich colors actually work much better, as these examples show. Another assumption is that it's important to open up to the sky as much as possible. That doesn't help much if the sky is gray and rainy. A better option is to create a series of cozy spaces framing a series of different views.

Below are a few more photos from Gamla Stan, and from our Stockholm office. We are looking forward to seeing many of you in June at the International Making Cities Livable, and exploring these ideas and many more!

Below, colorful plantings enrich the spaces.

Above, a small space becomes much more inviting with a tree planter, layered spaces, and a vista of the street beyond. Below left, a cobblestone street shows off its rich colors in the rain.

Below right, IMCL Director Michael Mehaffy and board member Peter Elmlund in their nearby office in Stockholm, as they plan another great gathering of the IMCL in Carmel, Indiana in June 2021.




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