Research: Community Visioning for Place Making

February 3, 2022

by Marcia Hannigan

Anton Nelessen, professor of urban design, devised a system for communities to engage with the planning process to improve their local environment. In Community Visioning for Place Making: A Guide to Visual Preference Surveys for Successful Urban Evolution, he details how this process works for community organizations, municipalities, and neighborhoods to evaluate their existing community and translate images into plans that embody their ideal characteristics of places and spaces.

Community visioning sessions are instrumental in generating policies, physical plans, recommendations, and codes for adoption and implementation in a range of urban, suburban, and rural spaces. The book serves as a bottom-up tool for designers and public officials to make decisions that make their communities more appealing.

Community Visioning is designed to inform people about the scope of community visioning for nearly 400 communities. Each was unique but shared some similar negative or positive responses to certain visual and spatial characteristics in the landscape.

The book portrays a comprehensive review of all the locations and provides recommendations and policies to achieve the positive vision people want while exposing the places and spaces with negative, unacceptable, depressing responses. It also seeks to explain and illustrate the process and the events leading up to the creation of this community visioning process and the development of the Visual Preference Survey and the Vision Translation Workshop.

It is intended for planners, developers, municipal officials, citizen planners, and academics who are interested in community participation. The book can also be used as course reading material to inform potential planners of the process and portray through value-rated images, what people really want in their living, working, and playing environment rather than what they have purchased due to lack of choice or current inappropriate zoning.

Where there has been meaningful community visioning, and when government leaders and developers accept the vision, remarkable results have happened. Community Visioning illustrates several examples of the built results and reviews the emotional responses to various images using the +10 to -10 status. It also reveals that much of what has recently been planned and built is negative and depressing. People can provide the appropriate vision of the present and what they want for land use, urban design, and mobility in the future if we give them a chance to participate in a meaningful process that has results.

The book and the process can be used to create community consensus, redevelopment plans, master plans, and perhaps most importantly, to help illustrate future codes and zoning ordinances said Professor Nelessen. It is also a great handbook for those wanting positive and negative visual examples for rural, small towns, suburbia, and urban core areas.

Community Visioning for Place Making: A Guide to Visual Preference Surveys for Successful Urban Evolution is available from the publisher’s website, Barnes & Noble, and other mass-market retailser.

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