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Designers are harnessing the principles of placemaking to shape mixed-use environments that offer more meaningful experiences, according to studies from Gensler.

“In my work as a mixed-use practitioner, I’m constantly aware of the importance of the public realm in making great cities that are layered with experience,” said Shamim Ahmadzadegan, a mixed use leader with Gensler. “I’m talking about the plazas, courtyards, passageways, sidewalks, and parks—the in-between spaces that serve as the connective fabric weaving together the threads of a city and its people. To me, these interstitial spaces are where a city’s soul lives and where social interactions reside.”

During its research for the Gensler Experience Index, the company discovered that a sense of place adds significantly to a great experience. “When we work with clients on new developments, we focus on characteristics that are rooted to the place they’re in,” she said. “We’ve found that this adds authenticity and allows visitors to feel connected to where they are. Ultimately, mixed-use projects are all about porosity and connectivity, from the connection to public transportation, to different parts of the city, to all of the components in between.”

Gensler’s multiyear Spaces in Between research examines this “overlooked” aspect of city-making. “We identified six elements—nature, community, human scale, culture, connectivity and art—that can be blended into developments to create places with spirit and energy,” said Ahmadzadegan. “When applied effectively, these elements can unlock project potential, generate higher revenues, and create more soulful spaces and, ultimately, more soulful cities.”

She continued, “By focusing on the connections between the building, site, and city—and by being alert to the sense of place in urban settings — we can deliver the types of hybrid experiences that people expect in today’s connected world.”