Translator: Tijana Mihajlović
Reviewer: Ivana Krivokuća This is my granddaughter Nikita. When she was two years old,
she badly cut her finger, and every time her mother would change
the bandage on her finger, she would cry and say,
“Mommy, I want to go home.” And her mother would explain to her
that she was already home – she was standing in the lounge room – to which Nikita would get even more upset, stamp her foot and say,
“No, Mommy, I want to go home.” You see, for a two-year-old, home is a feeling, not a location. It’s a feeling of no pain. It’s a nurturing place in which she can flourish
into her fullest potential. Every human being is born
with this inner ache for home. It once extended out of their front door, out into the street
in front of their house, down to the corner store,
down to the center of town. But that sense of place
has been slowly shrinking to the point where, for some people, not even their house
feels like home any longer. I’m a professional place maker. That means what I do
is try to give people back that sense of home in the public realm
that I have lost over time. I define place making
as being a lot like home making. You see, a home maker takes a house
and they turn it into a home. A place maker takes a space
and turns it into a place. Most place makers focus on design,
that is, creating a location. I focus on turning
that location into a home that gives people a feeling
of rootedness and connection. Some years ago,
I built this suitcase, Segal’s suitcase, a little bit bigger than this one here,
and out of that suitcase falls this. (Laughter) And just for fun,
I traveled around the world, and I set my throne up
in famous locations. Something very interesting happens when you put a throne
in the middle of the Champs-Élysée. (Laughter) People want to sit in it
and have their photograph taken. (Laughter) And it constantly amazed me, the people who not only wanted
to sit in the chair, but they wanted to put on the royal robes
and get dressed up as well. (Laughter) I’d arrived in Los Angeles and I selected a location
to set up my throne. It was a deserted car park,
weeds growing up through the asphalt. I put the gold suitcase down,
I was setting my camera gear up, when I spied a police car
coming across the car park. I knew they were coming for me because I was the only person
for miles around. (Laughter) The good officers pulled up,
rolled their window down, and said, “What are you doing here?” So, I patiently explained that inside my gold suitcase
was a giant throne. (Laughter) I was going to take
that throne out and set it up, and I was going to sit in it,
and take photographs of myself. (Laughter) And they said,
“Well, you can’t do it here.” And I said, “Why not?” And they said,
“Because as soon as it gets dark, this is where all the homeless people
in downtown Los Angeles come to sleep, and you’re not going to be safe, and that expensive camera gear
is not going to last very long. And they drove off. And I disobeyed. (Laughter) As soon as it got dark, homeless people
began emerging out of the shadows. And guess what they all wanted to do? (Laughter) None of them were interested
in stealing my expensive camera gear. They all wanted to sit on the throne
and have their photograph taken. This particular picture is a snapshot
of what place making is all about. You see, when this homeless lady, with all of her worldly goods
packed in her lap, sits on the throne, takes the scepter,
puts the crown on her head, something magical happens. In that moment of time, she is transformed from a homeless lady
into the Queen of Los Angeles. (Laughter) And at that precise moment, a crack appears
in the wall of her reality, and through that crack, she spies potential for herself
that she never dreamed possible. It’s true that my throne
is no longer in that car park, and yet, it is. You see, every now and again,
when this homeless lady comes to bed down overnight
in this deserted car park, it is entirely possible
that she remembers an evening, a warm, muggy Los Angeles evening, when for a brief moment of time,
she got to be the Queen of Los Angeles. And every time that memory resurfaces, the same crack appears
in the wall of her reality, and through that crack,
she spies that potential for herself. The memory becomes
like a beacon on the horizon, calling her forth
to a higher mode of being. This picture illustrates for us
two key aspects of place making. The first is that place making is the creation – or the art of creating –
memorable experiences for people that are potentially transformative. The second is that place is the antidote
to our addiction to movement. You see, we live
in a very mobility-centric culture. At the time of the Industrial Revolution, we began believing
that all progress requires movement. An idle machine is obviously
an unproductive machine. Somebody sitting
in a public space is obviously an unproductive member of society, unless they’ve got
a cup of coffee in front of them. (Laughter) Do you know that in America
your forefathers said that each of you has the right
to pursue happiness? As Americans, you do not have
the right to sit and be happy. (Laughter) There’s a great tragedy
in every mobility-centric culture, and that is that our potential
as individuals, or as communities, always resides in a future destination
that we are traveling towards. We will fly when we get a doctorate, when we get the job promotion, when we find the perfect partner, when we get rid of the person
we thought was the perfect partner. (Laughter) As cities, we will fly
when we get the stadium. Place breaks our focus
on that singular future event and plugs us
into the infinite possibilities that reside all around us,
right here, right now. You see, the problem
with always seeing our potential as something that resides in the future
is that we get mired in the means. We find ourselves
going to endless committee meetings, or creating master plans,
or collecting petitions, all of the means to some future vision, and often we get lost
in myriads of detours. I met a guy in Seattle some years ago, who had been fighting
his City Hall for 20 years to have something done
about the traffic problems in his home street. He came to one of my presentations,
and he went home, and he said to his wife, “Let’s have dinner
on our front lawn twice a week.” I met him some years later, and he said not only did having dinner
on his front lawn slowed the traffic in his street, (Laughter) some people actually stopped,
and got out of their cars, and came over, and had a conversation. Some even stayed for dinner. (Laughter) He said, “David, we built more community in having dinner
on our front lawn in two months than in the previous twenty years of bitching, and moaning,
and fighting City Hall. Paihia is a little town
in the north of New Zealand, of population of 1,700 people. They’d spent a lot of time creating
a master plan for their town center, and they asked me to help them realize
their 25-million-dollar dream in a town of 1,700 people. (Laughter) So, I instructed them to scrape together whatever resources
they could lay their hands on: money, even the junk laying around
in their back yards or in their garages. Now, in three days, and with just $5,000, and some old rotting seats
out of an old ferry, we converted this dead bit
of the town center into this civic space. The town got so excited about the new life that had been injected
into this dead solar space, that this lady set up an op-shop to raise money
for future place making projects. In essence, what she was doing
was taking the town’s crap and recycling it into money, which then got invested
into place making project. (Laughter) In four years, she has raised $300,000 recycling crap. (Laughter) One of the spaces this community
wanted to makeover was this toilet block; this is where
all the tourist buses pulled up. It wasn’t a very good introduction
to the town. When I saw it, it was probably the worst toilet block
I’d seen in a long time, but I got wildly excited, (Laughter) so excited I almost wet myself. (Laughter) I am a great believer that our deficits are always
our greatest potential asset. So, I gave the town nine days of my time. We established $15,000 budget,
all of that raised in the op-shop, and we turned their toilet block
into a tourist attraction. Have you seen this many tourists
standing around, looking at the toilet block before? (Laughter) They’ve completed over twenty
of these place making projects, and recently one
“Community of the Year” in New Zealand. I tried to replicate what we had done
in Paihia in other towns, but inevitably, the process
would get bogged down in endless committee meetings. So I created the seven-day makeover. This is where we do a project
from beginning to end, from conception to completion
in just seven days. This is the main street
in Mildura in Australia, where the city had spent
4.2 million dollars renovating this space
into a soulless display home. One of the key aspects
of a seven-day makeover is that the community must limited self
to the resources that it has access to. We found this old bridge,
languishing in the council depo, and it was recycled into one of the key centerpieces
of this makeover. We had access to 15,000 old tires. This piece of old agricultural pipe
was turned into a sculpture piece. This old fridge was turned
into a mini library. All in seven days, and starting with just $5,000, and the junk
that we could lay our hands on. My father was a vagabond
street-corner preacher man. We drifted from town to town
in this caravan, and here is the supreme irony
in my personal story. You see, the little boy on the right
never got to experience a sense of home or place. His parents were too busy
getting people ready for the big mansion in the sky. He was the perpetual outsider, beat up every single day of his life
by the school bullies at every new school that he went to. How is it that this little boy
with no sense of place or home grew up to be a world expert
on place and the establishment of place? Well, don’t ask a fish to describe water. (Laughter) You see, in the supreme act of alchemy, this little boy turned
his greatest deficit, no sense of home, and turned into his greatest asset: the ability to give other people
a sense of home and place. And that little boy
has a gift for you today. You see, poor people are often
better homemakers than rich people. The reason is that they
are forced to furnish their home with soul and with the generous spirit. Friends, you already have
every single asset you will ever need to bring magic to a public space near you. All you need to do
is stop dreaming, stop planning, for god’s sake stop going
to committee meetings, (Laughter) and just start creating. Thank you. (Applause)