Journey With Purpose

Journey With Purpose


From Placemaking to Placekeeping: Redefining Urban Spaces with Alexa Gonzalez

April 16, 2024

Alexa Gonzalez shifts urban design from placemaking to placekeeping, emphasizing community voices and long-term engagement to reshape public spaces in ways that truly reflect and benefit those who use them.



This episode pairs well with…

Joanne Cheung – Cities Book of Play

Cities are sites of aspirations and identities, and ‘play’ can be a means for fostering community engagement. Architect and urbanist Joanne Cheung critiques the prevailing forms of community engagement, suggesting that they are often paternalistic and fail to adequately consider the agency of individuals and communities.



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Episode Overview

  1. Distinction between Placemaking and Placekeeping: Alexa emphasizes the importance of “placekeeping” over “placemaking,” arguing that the latter often disregards existing community values and can act as a vehicle for gentrification.

  2. Community-Centric Approach: The focus is on amplifying local artists, businesses, and stories, fostering a deeper connection with the existing community rather than imposing new ideas.

  3. Multi-Generational Engagement: Placekeeping encourages activities that engage multiple generations, sharing knowledge and experiences within the community.

  4. Overcoming Trust Barriers: Building trust in communities, particularly BIPOC communities, is crucial due to historical disenfranchisement and skepticism towards development projects.

  5. Interactive and Fun Engagement: Alexa’s approach to community engagement emphasizes making participation enjoyable and interactive, which helps lower barriers and fosters more genuine connections.

  6. Use of Creative Tools: Tools like “Programming Tiles” help community members visualize potential changes in their environment, assisting them in articulating their needs and desires for public spaces.

  7. Education and Shared Decision-Making: It’s essential to educate the community about the potential long-term benefits of urban design projects to foster informed decision-making.

  8. Importance of Representation: Ensuring that public spaces reflect the diversity of the community, including all ages, abilities, and racial backgrounds.

  9. Navigating Systemic Challenges: Recognizing that public space projects are part of larger systemic frameworks, which often reflect existing power dynamics rather than the collective good.

  10. Sustainable Community Relationships: Long-term success in placekeeping requires ongoing efforts to maintain relationships within the community, understanding their evolving needs and respecting their historical context.

Sponsored by:



Expedition Works



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Show notes & links



Guest Bio

Alexa Gonzalez is a Colombian-American urban designer, placemaker, and Spatial Justice Advocate. She is the Founding Principal of Hive Public Space, an urban design and placemaking/placekeeping studio based in New York City. She brings over a decade of experience designing and transforming public spaces into socially and culturally inclusive environments. 



She believes in the power of public spaces and strives for her work to create memories and connections while evolving each community’s identity and sense of belonging. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Bachelor of Architecture from the Rhode Island School of Design and holds a Master of Science in Architecture and Urban Design from Columbia University in New York. Alexandra is an Obama Leader, a core organizer for Design as Protest. a member of the board of the Association of Community Design (ACD), a member of the Alliance for Public Space Leadership (APSL), and a Design Fellow at the Design Trust for Public Spaces.



“Our approach is truly about placekeeping. It’s about finding, amplifying, and really, keeping the local artists, the local business, the local stories. And that is really what defines a place. And that’s what we’re trying to bring in with our work. Because Very often we understand also that placemaking is seen as a Trojan horse for gentrification. that’s why often why there’s issues with trust And it becomes purely about aesthetic and it doesn’t connect with people. We really want to honing on the place keeping again and encouraging this idea of multi generational activity of sharing knowledge, sharing ideas, and sometimes even sharing the bad things, right?”



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