Fred Kent on Innovative Placemaking, Public Spaces and Community Well-Being

How to make cities livable and healthy, and urban spaces attractive? How to nurture and strengthen community identity?

Fred Kent and Kathy Madden, Founders of The Placemaking Fund, along with Steve Davies work towards reshaping cities by transforming communities. In this interview, Fred explains how placemaking can help build better places for people to gather, socialise, and boost community-building, which in turn can help to foster local economic growth. Fred and Kathy also run the Social Life Project, highlighting the importance of developing neighbourhoods in a way so communities can enjoy the outdoors, benefiting from the vitality of living spaces.

Fred, you are a leading voice globally advocating for strong citizen communities and sustainable urban development, from the bottom-up. Do you remember what got you interested in the sustainable development and management of cities or neighbourhoods?

I am basically a community organizer with a special interest in human ecosystems and how they can support the social and economic life in communities. 

I got that interest after organizing Earth Day in New York City in 1970. After this I went back to graduate school to study geography and anthropology. Margaret Meade was my anthropology professor. Barbara Ward, known as Lady Jackson, was my development professor. I then fell into a group of people I call the Golden Age on the Study of Community Life. Jane Jacobs, Alan Jacobs, Donald Appleyard, William “Holly” Whyte, Margaret Meade were leaders in that work during the late 1960s into the mid-1970s.

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