Creative placemaking in Adams Morgan


The residents of Washington’s  Adams Morgan neighbourhood were invited to ‘cross the street and share in a public space experience.  Designed to encourage community building and open dialogue, Ciudad Emergente (CEM) developed Okuplaza Fest DC  in an effort to generate long-term change with the short-term actions inspired by a Latin American city plaza. 


The Okuplaza model is a creative placemaking intervention that seeks to temporarily occupy underused places in the city and transforming them into public spaces for people. The model was used in Adams Morgan’s Unity Park to celebrate the diverse cultural expressions of the area,  promote civic engagement and encouraged discussions among neighbours about how the the area is changing.


CEM utilised a 3-step process of design, engagement and learning to activate the community. Creative programming  was introduced throughout Unity Park that included vendors, artists, music and a children’s area. A 35-foot table was set up to encourage engagement around the universal themes of food, family and nature. People joined the “big table” to eat meals , play board games or take part in a community mural. Creative seating, in the form of orange hammocks, encouraged lingering in an othewise dull concrete space. And in an effort to unpack and tackle the issues that come with a changing neighbourhood, a “tree of ideas” was set up to create a physical forum for community conversation.


Okuplaza Fest DC packed a lot of creative placemaking punch into one weekend that is sure to have lasting effects on the Adams Morgan community and their residents.


Ciudad Emergente (CEM) specializes in urban tactics and tools to foster urban innovation and improve the quality of life in neighbourhoods and cities. They have been active in North and South America developing creative placemaking projects using the “tactical urbanism” methodology; making the most of short term actions to inform long term planning processes.

Photos courtesy of Ciudad Emergente

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