The Creative Template

The creative template is a placemaking tool developed to deliver enriched senses of place that are responsive to contemporary expectations of improved, social, economic and cultural integration.

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new ecologies of sociability

The public domain is no longer the primary meeting place. It is nested within the virtual web of digital communications. Where place is dispersed, urban developments need to work harder to deliver strong sense of place. They need to promote embodiment – the desire to be and belong together.


endemic cycles of innovation and obsolescence

Where the public domain is systemically mutable, renewable and incomplete, the challenge is to manage change creatively as an opportunity to support dynamic senses of inclusion and participation. Project delivery needs to incorporate the creative potential of the project into the management culture and process. Design excellence is not simply mandated: its principles and practices are incorporated into the inception and roll out of the project.

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new expectations of performance

As urban developments compete with a growing variety of mediatised environments and venues, there is pressure to broaden ownership, diversify engagement opportunities and foster emotional identification. Enriched relationships between atmosphere and arrangement need to foster further evolution, incubate further creativity and build responsiveness into the outcome.


The creative template recognizes that places are made after their stories and communities can best participate in the shaping of new public infrastructure when the project speaks their language.


The creative template brings to the discussions with community groups, project partners and commercial investors a rich web of place-making stories that catch the ‘sense of place’. Place-based research is brought to the table in order to open a dialogue; feedback is incorporated. In this way the template becomes an active record of creative community input and a synthesis of stakeholder aspirations.

This content-rich, dialogue-based and additive approach allows traditional knowledge holders as well as community groups with expert but specialized local knowledge to participate equally in the place-making process. Capturing key themes, the creative template becomes a valuable document for the project team and the client. It provides clear guidelines for the design brief and, post-commission, an ongoing reference document against which individual design decisions can be assessed. In this phase it critically protects the overall design integrity of the project against fragmentation.


Later in the delivery process, it serves as a valuable tool for translating the ‘sense of place’ values into concepts and images informing branding, programming, commercial fitout and planning overlays.


The content of the creative template is collected to support ‘sense of place’ values.

Content generation has two aspects: information gathering and creative synthesis. Information is gathered from the cultural, material and environmental heritage literature. These materials are supplemented with the compilation of a strong visual record (photographic, cartographic) and with a care to consult the relevant history of earlier urban development and masterplanning.


An essential and foundational component of the place-making web of stories belongs to Aboriginal communities and delegated representatives. The protocols of story-sharing form an important part of the content; respect for these takes stories off the page and embeds their values in human behavior.

Every project and situation is different. Urban renewal projects designed to represent whole-of-community values can draw down storylines from the region and beyond; equally, site-specific associations are often generative, and significant in linking the place to other parts of the city and region. Creative synthesis is the process of sifting the materials for their information about how the place came into being, and what underpins its resilience and potential for future renewal. The overarching themes that emerge characteristically identify sense of place values that all communities and stakeholders can embrace.

Wherever possible, these materials are tested for their relevance through oral and written community histories. Ephemeral histories (traditional events) are also important.


The creative template is a process document.

Ideally, its preparation is commenced ahead of the design brief being raised. It establishes the project community of interest through its creative engagement of communities and stakeholders. Naturally, this engagement process is subject to availability and sensitive to the imperatives of the project delivery schedule. It meets the challenge of building a representative ‘sense of place’ narrative by spreading the consultation process out across the pre-design into design concept phase.


Later, when (for example) public artists may be brought into the project, the creative template remains open, able to listen to their expertise and provide generative feedback. Our client can also use the creative template for ‘vertical’ communication of project values – within its own organization and with various levels of government. In every case, sharing the template is an occasion for constructive feedback; in this way, the core values of the project are refined, shared and embraced and remain robust throughout the delivery cycle.

In the design development phase, the creative template provides a place identity that can be used to recommend the development to commercial investors; in this role, its visual and graphic content offers culturally-appropriate options for wayfinding design, business branding, public and private event theming, community engagement and education programs.

By the end of the project, the creative template has captured the process of bringing a new place into being; as a memory of a creative process, it offers the community, the local council and all place managers a valuable on-going resource in planning further development and growth.


The creative template is a low cost way of ensuring complex urban renewal projects stay on track and on time.

Brokering a common, non-technical language, it smooths the path of complex multi-stakeholder consultation. Its stories are easily communicated to the media, to the public and to creative communities. It assists purposeful and confident decision-making; and articulating shared values, it minimizes the inefficient deployment of human resources and the time-wasting risk associated with unaligned public art commissions.

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The impact of the creative template is also measured by the public embrace of the delivered project’s strong ‘sense of place’ value. Assisting the emergence of a place with a strong and attractive identity, with high recognition locally, regionally and globally, it helps secure high visitation levels. Above all, it links societal wellbeing to the quality of the place-experience, which goes well beyond functional destinations and is diffused through the sensory appeal of the design and the spaces. The wellbeing and sense of belonging fostered in this way builds social capital, cultural identity and economic confidence.

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The creative template approach enables government, developer and community to measure the success of the public space design investment. The performance of the space can be benchmarked against the creative expectations embedded in the ‘initial conditions’ or creative DNA embedded in the project at the outset.


Success or failure no longer depends on band-aid retrospective place-activation but grows organically out of the process.

The DNA secured through the creative template process shapes a post-delivery environment where

  • an authentic interpretative overlay informs the physical design of the place and its public art program;

  • the integration of meaningful elements can curate cultural event programming, cultural tourism offerings, business branding;

  • the unique sense of place can be promoted in building local, regional and global partnerships.

  • Place values shape reasonable public expectation, build media understanding, underpin growth in value and longterm community loyalty.

  • Governance is a partnership between stakeholders whose differing priorities and skillsets converge on the common object of of releasing the place’s generative DNA in the interest of quadruple bottom-line sustainability.