Placemaking for socially resilient site design: a study focused on further defining social resilience at the site scale through an ethnographic investigation.



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Kansas State University


Placemaking for Socially Resilient Site Design is a project focused on clarifying and characterizing social resilience. This project used ethnographic methods to answer the question: what qualities of place affect the downtown community’s desires for a temporary landscape in Wichita, Kansas? Through literature review this project further defined what social resilience meant at the site scale. Social resilience was operationalized as social systems ability to maintain function while promoting social trust, reciprocity, collaboration, and character between networks of varying scales (Putnam 1995).

Literature review provided the foundational knowledge on creative placemaking, a design strategy used to improve community prosperity through a sense of place and imageability (Artscape 2014). Place is determined by a user’s surroundings, and more importantly the memory of social engagement on site (Fleming 2007). Creative placemaking design strategies are valuable and specific to location. Therefore, it was imperative I incorporated ethnographic research methods to answer my focus question. Ethnographic research investigates cultural patterns and themes expressed or observed by a community (LeCompte et al. 1991). This form of research is unconventional for the typical site design process in landscape architecture. However, it proved to be effective in determining the most successful site use and organization. The ethnographic research allowed me to inventory and document user’s most desirable site needs and programming through the stakeholder design charrette and individual interviews.

In November 2014 the Wichita Downtown Development Cooperation requested our team as a partner in developing a temporary landscape for downtown Wichita, Kansas. The site was already selected with the intention of becoming Douglas Avenue Pop-Up Park. Funding for this project was awarded to the WDDC in the form of a $146,025 grant from the Knight Foundation.

Using an iterative community feedback process with five ethnographic interviews, I reevaluated the WDDC’s initial Pop-Up Park plan resulting from a community charrette. Recurring themes from interviews were identity crisis of downtown, outdoor preference, lack of residential amenities, negative perception of active and public transit, downtown lifestyle, Wichita as a place for families, and lack of nighttime activation. Using the recurring interview themes, I proposed a plan conducive to social resilience.



Creative placemaking, Social resilience, Place, Site design, Ethnographic research, Temporary park

Graduation Month



Master of Landscape Architecture


Department of Landscape Architecture/Regional and Community Planning

Major Professor

Mary C. Kingery-Page