Shaping The Future

Place-making is a transformative approach that inspires people to create and improve their public places because it strengthens the connection between people and the places they share.


By Dr Muhammad Babar Chohan | January 2020

Ameliorating the quality of places is surpassingly becoming the nucleus of policy and planning debates in the developed world. The rudimentary question, in this perspective, is about the institutional governance capacity of a country to bring about spatial improvements in a coherent manner. Such a capacity fundamentally relies on the quality of local and contextual policy cultures. The notion of ‘quality of places’ is applicable in most of the public welfare megaprojects in Pakistan including, but not limited to, Solid Waste Management in Karachi, Orange Train in Lahore and Metro Bus in Peshawar.

The inability of prevailing policy cultures to acknowledge the quality of places, as an essential function of robust spatial management, is a root cause of the failure of megaprojects in Pakistan. The concept of urban design is also inherently conjoined with the quality of places. During the circuitous process of defining urban design, there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ approaches. It is rather ‘better’ and ‘worse’ handling of urban places for the citizenry. This suggests that the quality of places, in the long run, is determined by the ongoing policy practices defining otherwise unfathomable planning cultures.

The planning contraptions and policy practices are indeed engineered by a morass of attitudes and ingrained beliefs behind place-making and urban design in which megaprojects are built. Cities can act as engines of economic growth only if the quality of places is boosted through multiple vibrant processes revolving around economic, social, spatial, environmental and political determinants. Pasty Healey, a UK-based planner, notes that well-connected, well-informed and well-integrated policy cultures have the ability to surreptitiously mobilize and capture urban opportunities and improve local conditions. However, the pandemonium of fragmented policy practices lack connections with updated knowledge and power, resulting in their failure to augment quality of places. The snippet is that place-making is a holistic process requiring a step by step winnowing of urban externalities.

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The writer is a civil servant holding a Ph.D in Planning from Massey University, New Zealand. He can be reached at babarchohan21@

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