Creative Placemaking: Turning Song into Place

Immersive experience based on the 12 Days of Christmas tradition. Made from PVC greenery, fiberglass, fabrics, steel. Entire installation 40’ x 40’ with additional hanging elements overhead. Installation was intended to create a new immersive way to recognize the Giving Season.

Immersive experience based on the 12 Days of Christmas tradition. Made from PVC greenery, fiberglass, fabrics, steel. Entire installation 40’ x 40’ with additional hanging elements overhead. Installation was intended to create a new immersive way to recognize the Giving Season.

Immersive experiences are all the rage now. The term has gotten a new life with the trend of sharing pictures that drive personal narratives through various social media channels but when I look back over my 20+ years designing for public spaces, I can recall the idea of immersive always being present. Scale often drives a sense of immersion as does an attention to detail. The more detail there is, the more likely we are to be “lost” in that detail.

A project from my career prior to the days when everyone carried a camera is the Giving Garden that was commissioned by a leading retail cluster developer. The challenge was to use the principles of creative placemaking to carry the traditional narrative of the Twelve Days of Christmas song. What fun!

A team of artisans and craftspeople were assembled to produce the design. Storytelling was our main objective. Navigation was accomplished by emulating an English garden with paths and hedges to guide visitors. All components were linked by using similar finishes and positioning. We knew we wanted families to be able to literally enter the installation and walk within the work. The narrative needed to be visually organized. We choose to represent all the human references to sculpted monuments depicting their roles: maids-a-milking, pipers piping, and so on. For the avian references, we created large, suspended birdcages. These highlighted each of the bird references: Turtle dove, French Hens, and their friends.

Families were delighted with the installation and our client was very satisfied. We still consider Giving Garden a very strong example of creative placemaking as a tool to engage an audience using a familiar narrative. The project was a lot of fun… as fun as a partridge in a pear tree!

POST BY ED MANNER • NOVEMBER 2017